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One of my students has a hearing aid: what do I need to know?

As a teacher, you’re committed to educating and supporting your students.  
With so many demands and so many students, it’s understandable that you might not be immediately across all their needs. When you first encounter students with hearing loss, you may be unsure of the best way to work with hearings aids and supporting technology for a positive outcome. 
Students with hearing loss need special support to maximise their hearing and reach their academic potential. Often, a young student’s hearing loss gets identified at birth. They benefit from early device fitting, comprehensive early intervention services and countless hours of work and effort from their parents to support language development. 
As a result, many will enter school with age-appropriate language skills. But that does not mean their hearing is exactly the same as their classmates.  With a little effort and understanding, you can ensure they get the full benefit from your lessons. Here’s what you need to know. 

Hearing aid technology is good, but not a cure 

For all the technological advances of recent years, hearing aids and cochlear implants don’t give full hearing to a student with hearing loss. More so than other students, the noise of day-to-day activity in the classroom creates major barriers to their ability to hear and learn. 
The most important factors are background noise and distance between you – or any speaker – and your student. Good listening conditions require that the room is quiet (imagine a quiet bedroom) and that you are no more than two metres away from your student when speaking. If the room is noisier than this, or if you are further away, the listening conditions will be difficult. 

You need technological back up 

Clearly, the listening conditions in a classroom or other learning environment are rarely that ideal. Without support and additional technology, a student with hearing loss may be so focused on trying to hear what’s being said, they miss out on processing it. When listening is difficult and tiring, they may switch off. 
There are solutions that minimise background noise and boost your student’s existing hearing devices. Hearing Australia provides remote microphone technology to students with hearing loss. Previously known as a personal FM system, this wearable device is about the size of a stopwatch. It captures what you’re saying and transmits it directly to the child’s hearing aids. 
This means the student hears your voice as well as their hearing loss allows, from anywhere in the room. They can focus on learning rather trying to hear you and you don’t have to stay glued to the one spot. 

A few things to remember about remote microphone technology 

  • Your voice will be heard at a constant level and stand out from background noise. Even if you raise your voice, the transmitter ensures that it remains at a comfortable level for your student. 
  • Most have a mute button, so you can speak privately to someone (or nip to the bathroom). 
  • Research shows that with continual use, a student’s language development can match that of their classmates. 
  • It helps students learn incidentally through experience and interaction, rather than always being taught directly. 

More help is available 

If you’re uncertain about using or setting up the wireless device, there are number of ways to get further information. 

  • Your student and their parents are often valuable resources as they’ve likely been managing hearing loss for years 
  • Your student’s support teachers can guide you on the device, as well as classroom modifications and accommodations 
  • Hearing Australia audiologists can provide advice or direct you to online support and resources  
  • The device’s website can be a wealth of information. Depending on the brand, it may even have a section specifically for teachers 
  • Search online for videos online relating to your student’s devices 
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