March 29, 2010

What Are Those Things in Your Ears?

I have asked my students about their hearing aids and cochlear implants or other devices they use to help them hear better. Every single one of them (from 2nd grade to 7th grade) did not know much about their devices. Some of them could name them. But, if I ask, "How do they work?" "What do they do?" "Why do you wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant?", most of them would not know how to answer.

As a result, I am working with all of them to learn more about the technology they use. I would like them to be able to tell other people about their devices as well as their own hearing loss. It is part of advocating for yourself. A very important skill.

I believe that the more you know about yourself the better you can help yourself and others.
If you have a child or student who uses hearing devices, ask them about their devices. See what they know and understand. You would be surprised.

When I asked one of my 4th grade students about how his cochlear implant works, he told me, "Huh, I never thought about it." When he found out more about his cochlear implant and how it actually works he seemed intrigued. I think he is starting to understand why he processes speech differently from others.



  1. I wonder if parents are willing to discuss these things with their kids (or if they even know the answers to these questions themselves).

    The problem I think I would run across (if I were a parent) is differences in perception. If the purpose in discussion is to build a foundation for self-advocacy I would discuss the mechanics of the technology from a different viewpoint than someone else. I can't imagine approaching the subject from a purely objective angle if I were dealing with kids (especially my own kids).

    Still, it is important to address these things.

  2. I think one of the first steps might be to call it what it is (cochlear implant or hearing aid) instead of "ear." Parents don't teach their children to call their glasses "eyes." Calling a CI an ear is equally silly.

  3. Good point, J.J. I always try to be careful on how I teach or present things--especially when it is about a personal attribute of a child. This is why I get the parents' permission first (at an IEP meeting, usually) before I discuss these things with my students. I then present the information as it is--with none of my opinions whatsoever. It can only be factual. This is why I would not recommend overly sensitive and opinionated people to work in this field.

    Anonymous- Yes, one of my students kept calling her hearing aid "earring".


  4. I call my glasses 'eyes', but then again, I'm a dorky girl...however, your post was good.

    Each family should say what makes them feel comfortable. :-)

  5. This is a great topic. When we talk with our son about hearing aides and cochlear implants we try and be very factual and not put any opinion or emotion into it. My son knows that not all deafness is the same and different people benifit from different things.

    We were also shocked about how little other deaf kids seem to know about deafness, deaf history and deaf culture. Having this kind of information has really helped my son.

  6. I had the privilege of sitting in an instructional class for teachers that addressed this very issue. This means that future teachers will (hopefully) teach their kids about the technology they use (though they specified the use of those FM devices). The children will even learn to troubleshoot their equipment and advocate for themselves by letting their teachers know if there is a problem.

  7. When I was younger in my early high school years 12-13 years old I would totally avoid the question, I would just shrug.I did not know how to explain how it works since I did not really know(since I was implanted at 10- I didnt really have an understanding of how it works).


Keep it civil.