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Effects of hearing loss on learning of children

Childhood hearing loss is a very common problem within our schools. Even a very mild loss can affect how a student learns. Every teacher in the early elementary school can expect to have one-fourth to one-third of his or her students without normal hearing on any given day. Children spend at least 45% of their day engaged in active listening activities. It is obvious that teachers need to be aware of the impact such a loss can have on learning. The maximum desirable noise level for children having normal hearing is 35 decibels (dB). The noise level can reach up to 44 decibels in an empty classroom with only traffic noise from the street or hallways. With 25 students and one teacher, the noise level can reach from 55-75 dB. Children in the process of building their language base do not have the same linguistic experience as adults. Adults call on their experience with language (previous knowledge of a topic, known vocabulary, grammatical/sentence structures) to fill in the gaps in hearing. It is only when children reach their teens that their speech recognition in difficult listening conditions comes close to that of an adult. It also has a negative impact on verbal language, reading, writing and academic performance. A loss of any type or degree can present a barrier to incidental learning because:

  • 90% of the knowledge acquired by a young child is learnt incidentally.
  • A hearing loss is a barrier to overhearing and learning from the environment.
  • Children with a loss often miss social clues.
  • Children with a loss cannot listen and learn--at least 10% of classroom instructions may be missed.

Academic losses occur in children as early as kindergarten and first grade. Most children with losses begin to show considerable learning difficulties when they reach third grade. This difficulty may be due to the changes in language complexity, less visual clues, more verbalizations, greater need to sequence and recall and lack of development of pre-skills in the previous grades.



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