Practical support for identifying and meeting need

What is hearing impairment?

Hearing impairment is a diagnosed condition. It can be permanent or temporary.

What is the impact of a hearing impairment?

A loss of hearing can impact on a wide range of areas including:

  • education
  • inclusion in everyday life
  • independence
  • social and emotional development
  • communication
  • language
  • access to learning
  • self-esteem

How to spot children and young people with hearing needs in the classroom

Signs of a possible hearing difficulty may include a child or young person:

  • not responding when their name is called
  • not contributing much in class
  • not seeming to follow what is being said in class, or misunderstanding instructions
  • struggling to concentrate, particularly when people are talking
  • appearing to find school exhausting
  • using behaviour as a way to mask their difficulties or as an expression of frustration
  • watching the teacher’s face very closely when he or she is speaking
  • asking for information to be repeated or saying ‘What?’ a lot
  • using too loud or too quiet a voice
  • watching others do something before attempting it themselves
  • becoming increasingly withdrawn from others in the classroom
  • having delayed speech and communication development
  • mishearing or mispronouncing words, which may affect reading
  • not being able to hear what’s happening if there is any background noise.

Common problems with hearing

There are different types of hearing difficulty:

Occurs when sounds can’t pass effectively through the outer and middle ear because of a blockage, usually wax or fluid. The latter is sometimes known as ‘glue ear’. This can be treated and is usually temporary – but it can have a significant impact on children while it lasts.

Results from a problem with the neurological ‘wiring’ which enables us to hear. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent and can range from mild to profound.

Results from a combination of both of the above.

Supporting students with hearing impairments

Here are some ideas on how to support children and young people with a hearing impairment:

Ensure that communication is clear and effective.

Make sure that you have the child’s attention before you start talking, speak clearly and at your normal level and pace. Check in with them that they have understood and be prepared to go through things again if needed. It really helps if the child or young person sits where they can easily see your face when you are speaking. Try to avoid turning away from them (e.g. to write on the board) if you are talking.

Strategies for inclusion> has more detailed advice on how to support children and young people with hearing impairments in the classroom.

Reduce background noise as much as possible.

This can be challenging in a busy classroom environment – but small changes can make all the difference. For example, remember to close the door or window if there is any noise outside.

Listening conditions in schools> has more information on how to improve the listening environment.

Seek advice from a specialist.

A teacher of the deaf may be able to provide you with more information and ideas.

Visit the services section> for more information on how to access this service.