Empowering hearing-impaired children at school

Supporting younger patients through school is difficult, and when you can’t be in the classroom with them, you might face a dead end. But improving the education of hearing-impaired or SEN children is easier than you think…

Hearing-impaired pupils in England struggle at every stage of school, with fewer than half leaving full-time education with two A-levels, compared with two thirds of their hearing peers. And with many mainstream schools failing to offer specialist support, a large percentage of these children can only rely on audiologists and assessors when it comes to their hearing problems. But with a growing demand for support, it can be a challenge for even the most experienced audiologist.

Education is suffering

As you aware, outside of school, hearing-impaired children around the UK are fully supported by specialist audiologists, consultants and assessors – with various tests to determine hearing levels; management of their condition; clear advice and referrals to education support services for hearing-impaired children, it’s safe to say they are well cared for. Great news for the children in the UK with hearing loss. But often this support doesn’t extend into the learning environment.

Almost 80% of hearing-impaired children attend mainstream schools. But in the past eight years, the number of teachers for the hearing-impaired has been cut by 14%, while the number of children requiring support has increased by 31%, with some schools only employing one specialist teacher for every 100 students.

To put this into context, 57% of hearing-impaired children are leaving primary school having failed to achieve the expected standard of reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 26% of children with no identified SEN.

On a positive note, the education system is improving, and hearing-impaired children now have a different experience, face better attitudes and have access to more advanced technologies than in 1960, for example. But in 2020, hearing-impaired children are still facing uncertain or decimated futures due to the lack of support available to them during school hours.

While specialist schools are fully equipped to work with hearing-impaired children in the classroom and playground, via smaller classes and a higher ratio of staff to children, mainstream schools and teachers are struggling. And hearing-impaired children are not only falling behind with their education, facing difficulties focusing and paying attention, but nearly two thirds have also reported problems with bullying. Misunderstandings between hearing-impaired pupils and peers often arise when communication breaks down, and even subtle interruptions in social interaction can place hearing-impaired students at risk. And with this comes social concerns for many hearing-impaired children, who might feel uncomfortable taking part in classroom activities.

So, when you can’t be in the classroom with them, what’s the solution?

Lip reading itself is complicated. And typically for lip reading to be successful, the speaker must be directly in front of the person who needs to see what is being said. As some hearing-impaired individuals may say, the grammar is in the face – but if you can’t see the face properly, it’s next to impossible to ‘read’. Which accounts for the fact that only 45% of lip-reading recognition is accurate. Not only do hearing-aid wearers currently experience the issues that face masks represent, but difficulties also arise when the speaker has facial hair, talks while looking down or while moving back and forth – much like a teacher – has a unique dialect or accent or speaks too fast. And different environments also present different issues.

Difficulty listening in noisy spaces is one of the biggest complaints of hearing aid users, and understanding conversations in these situations is problematic. Add to this the current social distancing rules, making face to face communication even trickier, and it’s easy to see why the 466 million hearing-impaired people worldwide can be left feeling frustrated and isolated. Among them, 34 million children who are no doubt struggling to keep up with the conversations around them.

Hearing aid companions

Good hearing makes learning and socialising easier. And Conversor, the leading portable voice amplifier providers in the UK, can be there when your specialist support can’t. Empowering children to be confident, happy and secure, enabling them to develop lifelong learning skills and fulfil their potential, Conversor’s range of powerful and lightweight, wireless microphones facilitate better learning.

With a strong history in supplying schools with assisted language devices, Conversor can provide teachers with the technology they need to assist hearing-impaired children and those suffering from disorders that impact concentration levels. No matter how noisy the classroom or playground, their devices transmit clear sound, cutting through background noise and isolating key dialogue. Resulting in happier and more supported students.