Mild Hearing Loss is Very Common
Mild hearing loss is incredibly common in children. The majority of hearing loss is temporary and the result of fluid or congestion build up behind the eardrums, known as otitis media. Studies have reported that up to 95% of children will have had at least one episode of otitis media by the age of 6.
Mild Hearing Loss Affects Learning
Research has shown that the impact of mild hearing loss in children is often under estimated. Classrooms are noisy places, especially for younger children whose speech and language skills are still developing. Where a child has a mild hearing loss extra effort is needed to listen which has an impact on how well they can perform tasks they find difficult and learn.
Given the large number of children affected it is likely that a number of children in a class may have a mild hearing loss at any one time. This is especially true for younger children that are working hard on their speech, reading and writing. Research has shown that if a child has a mild hearing loss they are likely to have poorer academic achievement.
Classroom Soundfield Systems
In the UK very few classrooms are equipped with soundfield systems.
A modern soundfield system consists of a single speaker easily installed that works in a similar way to a sound bar that may be attached to a TV or surround sound system in your home. However instead of sending sound to different areas of the room it creates an even sound everywhere. The teacher wears a small microphone and their voice is transmitted to all parts of the room by the soundfield speaker. As a result wherever a child is in the classroom they can always hear their teacher easily.
A soundfield system also useful for the teacher, by reducing vocal effort and the risk of voice strain.
A soundfield system benefits all children in the class, not just those with hearing loss and is relatively inexpensive compared to other common classroom equipment such as interactive whiteboards. It is unfortunate that there has not been more attention given to the listening environment in classrooms. The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) recently ran a campaign to draw attention to the issue of mild hearing loss and its impact on academic performance.
It would be great to see more soundfield systems in classrooms, if it is easier for a child to hear they will be able to put more effort into their work and learning.
Bess F. 1985 The Minimally Hearing Impaired Child. Ear and Hearing 6(1): 43-47
Lewis D. et al. 2015 Effect of Minimal/Mild Hearing Loss on Children’s Speech Understanding in a Simulated Classroom. Ear and Hearing 36(1): 136-144
McFadden B. et al. 2008 Effect of Minimal Hearing Loss on Children’s Ability to Multi Task in Quiet and Noise. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools 39(3): 342-351