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Why Does It Matter How We Hear?

“Oh! Here…nope, not this one. It says,
‘hammer, anvil, and stirrup.’ I want one with the scientific words –malleus,
incus, and stapes,”
my eighth grader softly explains as he scans internet images
of the ear on my computer, looking for just the right color scheme as well as
correct labeling of the parts. We’ve been talking in great detail about how
hearing works and how hearing loss impacts comprehension of spoken language.
He’s fascinated and wants to put together a presentation to share with his
classmates so that they can better understand how he perceives and processes
sound. Finally, he selects the image below, inserts in into his presentation,
and says, “perfect.”

does it matter how hearing works? Kids (and adults, too!) want explanations for
how and why things work the way they do. Without concrete explanations,
students often feel that misunderstandings are always their own fault. Many
students express moments in school and in social situations of feeling dumb,
confused, lost, or on the outside of the group. Helping them to understand how
hearing works and how hearing loss impacts comprehension can alleviate some of
the self-blame and negative feelings and instead empower students to advocate.
All my students have self-advocacy goals and objectives in their IEPs, and
learning about hearing fits right into those objectives. Even with my youngest
students, we study diagrams of the ear, create our own diagrams and label the
parts, and trace the path of sound up to the brain (what a great opportunity to
include sequential language instruction!). Recently, my first grader was
overheard telling a classmate who asked about her hearing aids, “Don’t you know already? Hearing aids make
sounds louder and help sounds get to my brain.”

students get older, they are able to explore in more depth how hearing impacts
language. One parent emailed me saying that my fourth-grade student drew a diagram
of the ear during a family gathering and used it to explain to her grandmother
who also has hearing loss, why dinner conversations are difficult to follow.
Another middle school student showed me sketches of the ear and hearing aid
that she had drawn while on the bus, explaining to her friends how she hears
when they asked. As for my student creating his presentation? The change in him
has been remarkable –once sitting in class unsure of what was going on and
having few strategies to figure it out, he now advocates for information to be
written on the board, alerts teachers when the FM is muted or muffled, and
explains what he needs to new adults and peers. He can quickly sketch a drawing
of the ear and explain where the breakdown occurs for him based on the cause of
his hearing loss. He understands that it is not his fault when he misses what
was said but that it is his responsibility to get the information. My student confidently
presented his PowerPoint to his classmates, responded to questions, and received
overwhelmingly positive feedback.  He no
longer blames himself or feels badly when misunderstandings occur because he
understands why; there’s a scientific
explanation for mishearing.

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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