Information For Teachers
Conductive hearing loss and auditory processing problems are associated with learning and behavioral problems at school. There is increasing evidence that past as well as current incidents of middle ear disease contribute to learning and behavioral problems. A history of middle ear problems can result in auditory processing problems. The attached downloadable article on auditory processing explains more.
This is often an neglected area by educational professionals and school policy- the presentation downloadable at this site explains why.
One way of assisting children with listening problems in the classroom is amplification. Individual amplification is often not suitable (they amplify background noise as well as the speaker) or acceptable to children who do not want to be seen to be different. With sound field amplification only the voice of the speaker is amplified to the whole class group. Robyn Massie's work indicates this can result in a 30% improvement in children's classroom performance. There are a number of different brands of sound field systems. Phoenix consulting is a agent for the classmate. It is also important to consider classroom acoustics and teacher communication strategies.
There are many strategies teachers can use to assist children in the classroom. 'Smart kids, dumb classrooms' outlines some of the issues. For information on the online eartroubles training and eartroubles kit- see training page
Research points to listening difficulties being involved in classroom problems of many children. In one study of children in Grades 1 to 4 in Melbourne schools, 30% of the children were found to have conductive hearing loss. Of the children who were identified as having behavioral problems 60% had a current conductive hearing loss. A further 30% had abnormal middle ear function, so they had probably had a recent hearing problem. Amazingly 90% of children identified as having behavioral problems had current hearing loss or middle ear problems.
Since conductive hearing loss is temporary identification of children with current conductive hearing loss is difficult. Once-off school hearing screenings are inadequate, if they occur. The following game (Blind Man's Simon Says) was designed to help teachers identify which children may have a current hearing loss. There is also an adaptation to use with younger children.
Work with Aboriginal students suggests that there is a similar association between misbehavior and hearing problems. The high incidence of conductive hearing loss among Aboriginal, Maori, Pacific Island and other indigenous people means that this subject is a critical issue for indigenous education. An article on learning and behaviour problems related to Aboriginal children's conductive hearing loss can be downloaded by clicking on this link.
This is a neglected field of work in terms of addresing school behavior and learning difficulties. The traditional behavior management strategies often do not work well when behavior problems are related to a listening problem. Most often the listening problems are 'invisible' and problems are seen as only related to language, social and emotional problems or cultural issues. However, listening problems can contribute to each of these as well as having direct effects. Children with listening problems may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD, as the attached article outlines.
The behavior of some children with listening problems may not be a problem at school. Many of these children are shy, socially isolated and suffer from anxiety. Research results suggest that girls are more likely to be shy and lack confidence, while boys are more likely to exhibit behavior problems. Sometimes these children arrive home tired and emotional. They may have tantrums, need debriefing by their parents or time alone. These difficulties do not only affect children with a current hearing loss. Children with a past history of middle ear disease may face similar problems.