The hearing test game: 'Blind Man's Simon Says'

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Try to minimize the background noise in the room; turn off air conditioners, heaters and fans. Play the game somewhere where other children won't be watching. Find another adult to help you if you can. It is easier that way. Choose four or five students for each group. Be sure to choose a mix of students in each group and include some who you think can hear well.

Explain the reasons for and the rules of the game. The students will stand at the front of the classroom, while you stand at the back. They must shut their eyes. You will then ask them to do things, often in a very quiet voice.

Step 1

Start the game by telling the students, in a loud and clear voice, all the things you are going to ask them to do to make sure these are understood be everyone. Examples of the things you can ask them to do are listed here.

  • Put your hand on your nose
  • Put your hand on your head
  • Put your hand on your cheek
  • Put your hand in the air
  • Put your hands on your ears
  • Put your hand on your chin
  • Put your hands on your knees

When you play the game, change the order of the instructions so the children don't know what will happen next.

Step 2

When you know that all the students can follow the instructions when they are given in a loud voice, tell them that you are now going to speak more softly. Lower your voice, but don't whisper. Give them another instruction. If you have another adult with you whose hearing is known to be OK, then they can help you get the sound level right if they stand beside the students, watch them, and let you know by nodding, that your voice level is loud enough to be just heard. When you first start try saying the words very quietly; so quietly that no one hears them. Then say them a little more loudly, until some hear. This will help you to establish the baseline of audible sound.

If all the children have difficulty hearing you then you know you need to raise the volume of your voice. When people first start this game they speak so loudly that even children with a significant hearing loss can still hear what they are saying. You must alter the sound level until you can see that some students are still able to follow you but that others are finding it difficult to do so.

Use the children in the group who have normal hearing to judge the volume of your voice. You need to know that children with normal hearing can hear you. This is why it is crucial that the groups include students whose hearing is not suspect. If you find everyone in a group cannot follow you, stop the game and change the composition of the group to include some children who you know can hear well. These will probably be children who generally behave well and who respond in an appropriate way, even when it is noisy in class.

Step Three

When you have repeated the instructions twice quietly, repeat then in a loud voice again. You will notice the children who need louder speech to 'hear'. Follow this pattern of 'loud, quiet, less quiet, loud' instruction for each group session so that children with hearing difficulties still feel that they have go some of it right. This is important because if children who have hearing problems only experience failure and frustration during the game, they will be reluctant to participate again.

Step Four

Repeat the various instructions until you know which, if any, of the students appear to have consistent listening difficulties. Some words sound similar but can be hard to tell apart; for example air, ear and hair, cheek and chin, and knee and nose. Use these words more frequently as they will help you to identify the children who find the instructions difficult to follow.

What To Watch For

Watch for students who:
(a) have consistent difficulties when you speak quietly; and
(b) make sudden corrections when you repeat the same instruction more loudly.

Watch also for students who:
(c) follow the instructions after a short delay;
(d) turn to see what others are doing;
(e) consistently turn their head to favor one ear;
(f) seem uncertain and make uncertain movements - for example their hands 'hover' around the sides of their head; or
(g) are reluctant to participate or disruptive during the game.

Take note of students who consistently respond in these ways. These are the students whose hearing is suspect and who you should refer for hearing tests. They are also the students who you need to be careful with and who should benefit from the use of the teaching strategies outlined in the Phoenix training programs.

Parents and teachers can also use 'Simon Says' to check the hearing of individual children. Someone else should sit or stand next to the child and follow your directions - so you know that they can be heard. First, speak softly so that the checker and the child cannot hear you, then more loudly until one of them can hear your quiet instructions. You play the game the same way as you would play it with a group of children; repeat your instructions in the quiet, less quiet, loud pattern and note any difficulties of the type outlined in points (a) to (g) above.

Students with a current hearing loss in both ears and many of the students with a hearing loss in one ear display obvious difficulties during this activity. Students who have no current hearing loss but who may have had a past hearing problem that has left them with some language or auditory processing problem may also have difficulty with this test.

'Blind Man's Simon Says' is a simple activity that is usually popular with students and can be used regularly with the whole class. Remember, conductive hearing loss fluctuates so it is important to check children's hearing by using the game every month or so. It is an activity that can be useful if you want to identify the students who should be referred for hearing tests.

The identification of a conductive hearing loss is the first step in the Phoenix training programs to help teachers and parents minimize the adverse effects of conductive hearing loss.

Below, children from Petone Central School in Wellington New Zealand play 'Blind Man's Simon Says'

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