Research shows there is a growing number of children with hearing difficulties. Hearing loss creates problems in the way individuals express and receive language, which in turn leads to social, communication, and educational problems. Therefore, while developing programs, educators need to seriously consider the impact, both short-term and long-term, of hearing loss on a person's ability to understand spoken language.
Hearing-impaired children are academically and socially vulnerable while attending school. Educators need to collaborate with children, their families and the specialists in order to adapt programming and implement alternative forms of communications, such as sign language, lip reading, visual aids and listening devices. Older children should also have input in decisions which regard adaptations of their educational program.
There is controversy over what are the most effective methods for communication to be used by deaf or hard of hearing students. The deaf community has urged schools to accept manual approaches, such a sign language, over oral approaches, such a speech and lip reading. According to those defending oral approaches, the human brain can learn language by hearing it only, therefore, treatment for children with hearing loss will maximize their auditory capabilities. Manualists, on the other hand, believe that if deaf children are forced to communicate only through speech and lip reading, they are denied full and successful communication through sign language. An alternative approach, called "Total Communication", uses sign language and auditory-oral methods simultaneously.
Teachers need to make special considerations when teaching hearing-impaired children. The consideration, which mostly involves common sense, can be sharpened through close collaboration with the student, the student's family and people that have more experience and training. The student and his or her family can also offer the teacher support through constructive criticism of what is or is not working for the child in the classroom.
When teaching hearing-impaired children, teachers should ensure that the hearing and listening environment in the classroom is optimal for the child. There should also be minimal distance between the teacher and the child so that lip reading is easier and the teacher should face the child during all oral communication. Teachers should ensure there is good lighting so that visual aids can be clearly seen. As much visual information as possible should be used to reinforce provided auditory information.
Teachers should not exaggerate pronunciation because this will deter understanding. Environmental noise should be kept to a minimum in order not to interfere with listening devices. Teachers should frequently check to ensure the listening devices are working properly. Sensitivity to the social, academic and emotional challenges faced by a child with hearing loss is also required.
Teachers should keep in mind that usually more than one visual thing is happening at one time, such as a teacher talking while expecting students to take notes of the lecture. It is not realistic, however, to expect a hearing-impaired student to read lips while also taking notes. The main notes could be provided to the student before the class so that he or she can focus on lip reading during the lecture. In the higher grades or university, where note-taking is done on a daily basis, volunteer note-takers can be assigned to help hearing-impaired children. Many hearing-impaired students will also need to take more work home to prepare for material to be covered in the next class.
Teachers are also advised to frequently check to ensure hard of hearing students understand information provided in class. When a student does not understand what is being said, the teacher can rephrase with additional words relevant to what he or she wants to say, thus providing cues to aid speech comprehension. Teachers should also use every opportunity to teach the other students about hearing loss and what can be done to support hearing-impaired children in class.
There are a number of instructional aids teachers can use when teaching deaf or hard of hearing students. A teacher can use sign, finger spelling and speech reading. Equipment, including overhead projectors, bulletin boards, computers and televisions showing captions on the screen, can also be used in teaching. Teachers can also use materials such as pictures, illustrations, artifacts, slides, computer graphics and films with captions.
Visual aids including classroom rules charts, job and choice menus, transition time cards and charts, task organizers, daily schedules and the Internet can also be used to enhance the learning process and communication. Teachers can take a sensitive approach and alleviate unnecessary information that requires too much energy for the deaf or hard of hearing students to process.