What is it?
A hearing impairment signifies a full or partial loss of the ability to detect or discriminate sounds due to an abnormality associated with the physiology, anatomy or function of the ear. A hearing impairment can be described in terms of the:
degree of a hearing impairment, ranging from a mild hearing impairment to a profound hearing impairment, and
type of hearing impairment – permanent (sensori-neural), not permanent (conductive) or a combination of both (mixed loss).
A student with hearing impairment may use speech and/or sign to communicate. Some students who use sign prefer to be referred to as Deaf as they identify with the unique culture of the Deaf Community and perceive their deafness as a difference, not a disability. The Department of Education and Training refers broadly to this entire group as deaf/hearing impaired students.
Hearing impairment can be present at birth, or it can develop at a later stage during childhood or adulthood.
The symptoms of hearing impairment will vary depending on what is causing the condition. Some people experience a sudden, profound loss of hearing, perhaps as a result of a viral infection, or an injury to their head or ears. In other cases, a person’s hearing will gradually get worse over a long period of time (age-related hearing loss).
Some hearing-related conditions can have symptoms other than hearing loss. For example, tinnitus is a condition where the hearing nerves in the cochlea (the coiled, spiral tube inside the inner ear) become damaged. This can cause symptoms such as:
A hearing aid or cochlear implant may help your child optimize the hearing he does have and so learn to speak properly. His doctor, or a professional who works with deaf children in the language development field, can discuss your options and help you make a decision. Your community may have a program where you and your hearing-impaired child can attend therapy sessions; rather than the focus being just on your child, you’ll be learning how to teach him the meanings of words and sounds.
There is a very significant advantage that happens when a deaf or hard of hearing child is present in a normal everyday environment. There are patterns of interaction, both formal and informal, that the child observes and to which he/she is expected to conform.
To derive full benefit from being present in this type of setting requires a willingness on the part of the educational institute and extracurricular staff to help the child integrate by reaching out to the child him/herself. Support and patience are crucial to the social development of these children. They are greatly concerned with their own value and have a continuous need to understand themselves and how others perceive them.
Communicating in a group is often difficult for a deaf or hard of hearing person. Not only must they make a conscious effort to revise the information they wish to contribute, but they continuously strain to hear, visually track and interpret the information being expressed.
Understanding the additional stress of trying to keep track of what is going on by utilizing every sensory avenue available to compensate for insufficient hearing is an exhausting task. If the child is being nurtured, it makes the continuous function of accommodation more acceptable. Support during these experiences encourages deaf and hard of hearing children to pursue gratifying interpersonal relationships rather that seeking isolation and loneliness. You can, and do, make a difference!