Public School Caucus

Article excerpt

CHANGING SCHOOLS ONE BRICK AT A TIME

Over the past 20 years, technological advancements have rapidly changed the lives and opportunities of thousands of people with hearing loss. For some people who are deaf or hard of hearing, technology and legislation has fueled a debate over what it means to be deaf. For many, technology has reduced the age of diagnosis and intervention, helped provide hearing through hearing aids and cochlear implants and given people access to a variety of communication tools.

Although both challenging and exciting times lie ahead for people with hearing loss, the unequivocal goal is ensuring that babies, children and students with hearing loss, as well as their families, have every opportunity to benefit from these advancements. How do we incorporate what we know to improve educational attainment for children with hearing loss in a general education setting? One readily available and effective solution is to optimize the listening environment so that students clearly receive auditory information.

Many school districts are considering remodeling antiquated schools or building new ones. As much money as these projects cost, the acoustical environment in which students are expected to "grow their brains" is often near the bottom of the list of considerations - if it makes the list at all.

Since the 1970s, research results have repeatedly illustrated that our children's classrooms lack the acoustical integrity necessary for literacy development and learning. The effects of reverberation and background noise on speech perception are recognized factors in reducing listening behaviors. Studies also reveal that younger children need considerably less background noise and fewer distractions than older children in order to receive speech information. This holds true for children with typical hearing and dramatically increases for children with even minimal degrees of hearing loss. Although the use of amplification in regular primary grade classrooms has been supported by research, school district administrators have been slow to embrace the idea of improving the sound quality in their schools by utilizing readily available technology.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with the administrators of a school district in Delaware County, Pa., that is constructing one elementary school and renovating another. I learned that my experience educating people about classroom acoustics paid off when 1 was invited to participate in one of their planning meetings. It also gave the audiologists in my program a chance to discuss the benefits of proper classroom acoustics prior to the installation of sound-field amplification systems. …