May 3 is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and most of us can think of at least one teacher who changed everything for us. For children with hearing loss, there can be more extraneous factors that interfere with what the teacher has to offer.
If you have a child with hearing loss in your classroom, sometimes the room itself may contribute to difficult hearing—and not just for the child with hearing loss. Reducing background noise and sound reflections can create a calmer working and learning environment for all.
First: stand still in the middle of your empty classroom and listen. There’s probably more background noise than you realize. If you hear lots of noise outside from traffic or a building site, consider asking for another classroom away from the noise.
Next, listen for noise inside the classroom. Is there a printer that hums? A desktop computer with a noisy cooling fan? The sound may seem slight to you, but to someone wearing hearing aids, those small sounds can be intrusively loud. Simple solution: turn them off when not in use.
Finally, add rubber or felt pads to the bottom of chair and table legs. Can you imagine no more scraping sounds as your children move around during class?
Still standing in the middle of your classroom, clap your hands. How long did it take for the sound to fade away? This is the echo. If it took three seconds or more for the sound of your clapping to fade, it will be hard for any child to hear you clearly. And it will be even harder for a child wearing hearing aids.
The first step to reduce reflections is to hang curtains. Windows are hard, reflective surfaces and if your classroom has many, hanging curtains will have an instant positive impact.
Does your classroom have bare walls? These also cause reflections. You could install bookcases and fill them with a variety of things of all shapes and sizes. You could also try covering your walls with your children’s artwork – the more varied the materials and textures the better.
People with hearing loss find it easier to understand speech if they can see the speaker’s face–we all do. After all, it’s often cited that two thirds of all communication is non-verbal.
Is the seating in your classroom arranged around desks? If so, you could consider moving them into rows. Or you could simply make sure that your child with hearing loss sits so he or she faces you at all times. It’s probably best if he or she sits near the front of the classroom. And, even though it can be tricky when you write on the board, try not to turn your back on the class while you are talking.