Understanding Accommodations and Hearing Loss

The goal in supporting communication for children of any age, with hearing loss, is often referred to as “maximizing communication access”.

Accommodations are “arrangements” that support a desired focus. Communication accommodations may focus on the individuals, the environment, delivery of information or the information itself.

At school, observe the classroom arrangement and watch how the student engages or withdraws from the group. Some accommodations might include:

Individual Accommodations: Ensure the two communicating can see each others’ face, focus on turn taking, avoid talking on top of each other, use simple gestures - even if not formal sign language, check in for summaries to ensure comprehension, consider pointing at who’s talking when lots of people are chatting back and forth quickly.

Environmental Accommodations: Ensure clean lines of sight and that feedback noise is not interfering with hearing devices.  This may mean circular arrangements more than rows, turning off or communicating away from humming and buzzing devices (eg. air conditioners) or noisy backgrounds, placing rugs where sound is echoing in hearing devices, adapting balls onto chair feet to avoid screeching interference, doing more group talk up front on projectors or white boards, explicitly separating time/method for group talk and note taking, and thinking about background lighting and other kinds of “visual noise” that might distract visual focusing.

Information Delivery Accommodations: Information may come from many directions, including: people, television, text, or incidental activity.  Maximizing access could be summarized by saying, “Be as explicit as possible.”  

  • FM System technology is available for teachers or anyone to use when one person or information source is the priority over all other sounds. A small microphone can be attached to the television or to a phone or a person’s shirt, to boost the sound of that source over all others sounds into the receiving person’s hearing device.  Ask your audiologist what is available for your child.

  • Whenever possible, use captioning.

  • When an interruptive incident, such as a loud noise or dropped plate, takes place that everyone responds to, repeat it so that the child with hearing loss can share the resulting activity.

  • When literacy is high enough, have a notepad or cell phone memo app for clarification. Writing back and forth is still a practical accommodation when necessary.

  • Learn to communicate visually.  Sign language courses are available in communities all around the State and offer valuable language for communication, deeper understanding of the child’s manner of processing the world around them, and fellowship with others who are in similar learning circumstances.

Information Accommodations: A basic rule of thumb with maximizing access to information between Auditory and Visual processors is to make the communication as visually descriptive as possible.  Think about show more than tell.  Concrete examples that work up to bigger ideas may be a more relevant form of getting the information across in what is being communicated. Incidental learning may be 75% of how information is received by children with full access to the sound information around them, while explicit learning may only be 25%. But this equation is reversed when full access is not their norm.  Making the incidental explicit is learned through practice and awareness.

For additional ideas visit Supporting Success for Kids with Hearing Loss