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Classroom Accommodations for Children who are Hard of Hearing

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Students with hearing loss are at a disadvantage in a classroom setting where they must listen to their teacher and peers. This lesson looks at some examples of accommodations that may be helpful for children who are hard of hearing.

Challenges of Hearing Loss

Teachers who have taught students with hearing loss are familiar with the unique challenges that these students encounter daily. When you consider how much learning and interaction in the classroom happens through listening, it is clear that hearing loss can put students at a significant disadvantage.

The main challenge students with hearing loss face is the inability to hear what their teachers and peers are saying. This problem is made worse when you consider all of the background noise in a typical classroom. Squeaky desks, chairs moving on the tile floor, air conditioning, children talking out of turn, and the sound of someone typing on a keyboard are all noises that fill a normal classroom. A typical student can tune out these background noises without even trying, but students with hearing loss may need additional support to hear clearly and keep up with the curriculum.

Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss

Let's look at the following scenario for examples of accommodations for a student with hearing loss.

Bobby is a fifth grade student with hearing loss in Ms. Rogers' class. He wears hearing aids to help amplify sound enough for him to understand speech and other environmental noises. While the hearing aids are helpful, Bobby still can get overwhelmed with all of the demands placed upon him. In addition to completing all of the work that his peers are doing, Bobby has the challenge of tuning in to the noise he needs to hear, and tuning out all other background noise. Ms. Rogers has found several classroom accommodations that help Bobby have full access to the instruction and curriculum.

A classroom accommodation changes how a student accesses the content or material in a lesson. If a student's only disability is hearing loss, the student should be expected to learn the same material as typical peers in a regular education setting. While some aspects of a classroom environment may be difficult to cope with, students with hearing loss have the same potential for learning as their peers.

Now let's look at several accommodations that Ms. Rogers uses to help Bobby be successful in school.

Environmental Accommodations

Certain aspects of the classroom environment may make it difficult for students with hearing loss to understand what's going on around them. For this reason, teachers may change some of the physical aspects of the classroom to help all students have equal access to classroom instruction and interaction with peers.

Seating Arrangement

Bobby has an assigned seat in the front of the classroom. As Ms. Rogers talks directly to the class, he can drown out the background noise and tune in to what she is saying. A front row seat also helps Bobby hear the comments and questions from his classmates because their voices are directed toward the front, so the sound travels in Bobby's direction.

Flashing Alarms and Timers

Ms. Rogers frequently sets timers to help motivate her students to stay on task. The noise level in the classroom can be loud during certain activities, which makes it harder for Bobby to discern certain sounds. Rather than relying on the buzzing sound of the timer to indicate that time has run out, Bobby can also use flashing lights as a signal to put his pencil down. The fire alarm in the classroom also flashes, which puts Bobby in a better position to follow protocol for fire drills and emergencies.

Instructional Accommodations

There are many accommodations that teachers may try to help students like Bobby access as much of the instruction and material as possible.

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