Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Teachers' Perceptions about Minimal Hearing Loss: A Role for Educational Audiologists

Academic journal article Communication Disorders Quarterly

Teachers' Perceptions about Minimal Hearing Loss: A Role for Educational Audiologists

Article excerpt

A 25-item survey was administered to 45 teachers to identify what they knew about Minimal Hearing Loss (MHL) and to verify or refute five possible misperceptions reported earlier by Goldberg and McCormick Richburg (2004). Results support the importance of an educational audiologist on the service delivery team to help teachers understand the ramifications of MHL and assist in meeting the educational and psychosocial needs of students with this type of loss. Results also suggest areas for in-service education for classroom teachers, especially regarding the issue of preferential seating.

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Minimal hearing loss (MHL) is defined as hearing loss between 16 and 25 dB hearing level (dB HL; Bess, Dodd-Murphy, & Parker, 1998; DeConde Johnson, Benson, & Seaton, 1997; Martin & Greer Clark, 2000; Nelson, 2000; Northern & Downs, 2002; Stach, 1998). This type of hearing loss can be permanent (sensorineural), transitory (conductive), only in one ear (unilateral), or only in the high frequencies. Regardless of type, MHL can affect language development and learning.

MHL may not be easily detected during regular hearing screenings that use 20 dB HL across multiple frequencies, as recommended by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA, 1997). Although debate continues over the importance of MHL, increasing evidence indicates that MHL is a recognized entity that may have significant consequences for education, language learning, and literacy, as well as for behavior and socioemotional development, particularly in young children (Bess et al., 1998; Flexer, 1994; Gillon, 2000, 2002; Hoffman, Daniloff, Bengua, & Schuckers, 1985; Jarvelin, Maki-Torkko, Sorri, & Rantakallio, 1997; Johnson, Stein, Broadway, & Markwalter, 1997; Nittrouer, 1996; Northern & Downs, 2002; Pakulski & Kaderavek, 2002; Roeser & Downs, 1995; Rvachew, Ohberg, Grawburg, & Heyding, 2003). For example, students diagnosed with MHL demonstrated difficulty with (a) reading, (b) language, (c) attention, (d) communication, (e) social and emotional function, (f) unexplained fatigue, and (g) inappropriately loud speech as compared with their hearing peers (Bess et al., 1998; Dodd-Murphy & Mamlin, 2002; Pakulski & Kaderavek, 2002). Additional investigations have documented that children with MHL repeat classes more often than those with unimpaired hearing, and the economic and psychological costs of such grade repetition may be substantial (Bess et al., 1998; English & Church, 1999; Flexer, 1994). In most school districts, grade retention is no longer considered to be in the best interest of students (studies cited in English & Church, 1999). Classroom learning difficulties of students with MHL may, therefore, worsen as they are promoted through successive grades.

It is important to understand why MHL can have the effect it does, even though the hearing loss is minor. Researchers have shown how typically developing children with normal hearing sensitivity do not process auditory linguistic information in the same manner as adults, especially in adverse listening environments (Eisenberg, Shannon, Martinez, Wygonski, & Boothroyd, 2000; Johnson, 2000; Nittrouer & Boothroyd, 1990; Stelmachowicz, Hoover, Lewis, Kortekas, & Pittman, 2000). Blair, Eudaly, and Benson (1999) estimated that there is at least one, and possibly as many as seven, children with some degree of auditory learning problem in every elementary classroom. Of concern is the fact that many students with a mild hearing loss are not considered eligible for direct intervention from special education personnel, including educational audiologists. In addition, the time allocated for audiologists to consult with teachers is limited. Blair et al. (1999) stress that audiologists and speech--language pathologists (SLPs) may not receive sufficient guidance in their graduate programs regarding optimal ways of collaborating with classroom teachers. …

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