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Audiologists at the Vancouver Hearing Centre specialize in hearing loss management, hearing conservation, and aural (re)habilitation. We serve children and adults of all ages in the Vancouver area and from around British Columbia, Canada.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adult/Teen's Zone: Gaining Communication Access

For most people with hearing loss, including teenagers, the primary communication challenge is gaining access to what is being said. This access assumes that the person has the speech and language abilities to understand the message once access is provided. If deficits exist to access this information, the language that is communicated must be modified to a level that can be accessible to the receiver. Without full access, people with hearing loss are at a distinct disadvantage by needing to rely on only partial information to derive correct meaning from the message being delivered.

Ways to obtain full communication access are through listening and visual cues. For instance, hearing technology can maximize audition, visual displays can verify content of messages, and sign language can provide full visual interpretation of the message. Using these sources helps one access information just as well as one's normal hearing peers. Basically, it makes it more fair and helps "level the playing field" with one's normal hearing peers. It does not provide an advantage over normal hearing people. People with hearing impairment can not be expected to be held accountable for information to which they do not have access.

The real barriers are in assuring that accommodations are available readily when needed. This applies to students, people in the workplace, and socially.

For example, for students, making sure all information is accessible is often difficult for teachers. Teenagers, in particular, more than anything want to fit it. They do not want to be noted for their hearing loss. They don't want to draw attention by requesting accommodations such as asking for repetition or clarification. Therefore, when a student with hearing loss requests a specific accommodation, recognize the courage that it may have taken to make the request and accept the responsibility to comply in return.

Some tips for teachers for monitoring students with hearing impairment are as follows:

1) Check in with the student with hearing loss frequently to determine if they are understanding. Conduct the checking in a way that does not single out the student as being different.

2)Implement common sense rules of communication etiquette in the classroom. Encourage turn taking in class whereby students should identify themselves, speak loudly, and clearly so that everyone can hear and understand them. When necessary, help by repeating what other students are saying.

3) Repeat public address announcements or provide them to all students in writing.

4) Be conscious of minimizing classroom noise levels and maintaining good lighting.

5) Be an enthusiastic user of FM and other assistive device technology.

6) Use captioning AND audio with videos and films. This is helpful to all students
not just hearing impaired students. Media should never be used if it is not
accessible to all students.

7) When a sign language interpreter is involved in the classroom, respect their
primary role as an interpreter. Work closely with this person especially when
new content is being delivered.

blogger: Sarah Helmel, M.Cl.Sc. , Au.D, RAUD
Registered Audiologist