March 8, 2011

Don't Expect D/HH Students to Eagerly Participate in Listening Activities

A few days ago, some teachers wondered why a hard of hearing student in their classroom did not seem interested in listening to stories being told on a CD player.

I reminded them that while he can hear pretty well with his hearing aid, he still relies on lip reading and looking at the speaker's face for visual cues to help him understand what is being said. One of the teachers said that she did not think about this and that it never occurred to her that this could be the reason why he usually does not seem interested in listening to stories being told on the radio or CD. I also spoke to them about how listening requires concentration and effort which can be very tiring for some deaf and hard of hearing people.

I thought that I have spoken to them before about his hearing loss and that they understood what it means. I assumed that they would automatically understand that they probably should not expect him to participate in listening to a CD recorded story. 

I also spoke with the student explaining to him how important it is that he advocates for himself. I told him that he will have to let the teachers know when he is unable to fully participate in a class activity due to his hearing loss.

For the most part, I think that sometimes people simply forget that someone has a hearing loss, especially when the hearing loss is not very obvious. It helps if the deaf or hard of hearing person advocates for him or herself or reminds others that they have a hearing loss. Although, I know how irritating it can be to constantly have to do this with some people.

Even some people who know me really well will forget that they should not attempt to have a conversation with me when they are in another room.

But, just about everyone I know always remember to stand or walk on my right side when talking to me. :)

This experience with the teachers taught me that I need to be more proactive about educating the teachers about their students' hearing loss and how they should deal with them. I have got to be in constant contact with the teachers and make sure that every activity they choose to do in the classroom is appropriate for their deaf or hard of hearing students.


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  1. It's not just teachers - even close friends and family are oblivious to certain effects of my hearing loss. This is partly my fault, as I probably do not advocate and educate enough. On the other hand, hearing loss is just so different for each person and like you said, it can be "invisible," so I can see how there would be certain things that would be difficult to remember. Plus a lot of d/hoh people I know (myself included!) are master bluffers ;), so it's no wonder that the people around us aren't aware of how certain situations affect our hearing.

  2. Hi (e,

    Many people thought that I am hearing because of my speaking ability and I can hear pretty good with my pair of $5,500 hearing aids but I have to admit that I will always be TONE DEAF. I could be correctly saying that vast majority of the Deaf people hearing CI or advanced hearing aids are still TONE DEAF.
    What is tone deaf?
    Many say that President Obama is tone deaf. Go look in google news and type in the search box for tone deaf and seems that there are many hearing people "classified tone deaf".

    More definition of tone deaf:

    Yes, I can speak well but I was trained to speak for the hearing people but not the other way around.

    I finally understood the meaning of normal was when I became fluent in ASL.....not the simple English sign language as I started with.

    No matter how well I can speak or hear with a device, I will never be hearing....regardless how assimilated I can be as a hearing person.

    And you know or should I say KNEW, that they(hearing society) still don't get it.

    John Egbert

  3. It is amazing how ignorant people can be. I had a teacher two years ago...when I went in one week to visit with my student she was in a rage. "He's not understanding anything about the story we're reading right now! I just don't know what's going on with him." I asked how the story was being presented - were students reading silently to themselves, was the teacher reading aloud to the whole class, were they doing popcorn reading? "Well, we have it on CD so they all listen with headphones on!" My jaw just about hit the floor. The student would take off his hearing aids to use the headphones, and this was a student with a severe loss, so without aids he wasn't getting much auditorily! Unfortunately, this teacher was also not the brightest bulb in the box, and didn't understand why the student couldn't listen on headphones even after I explained this...ugh. I hope your situation turned out better!

  4. people also forget that phones, tv, etc. is tinny (spelling?). our hearing devices can be tinny as it is (it's electronic).. add tinny sounds on top of another tinny sounds does not make it any easier for us. but yeah, I need lipreading. Plus, we can be tone deaf and missing some sounds depending on our type of hearin loss (this include CI, as a child still learning to listen) as well.

  5. Denial seems to be at the root of hearing peoples' failure to understand the reality of deaf people's reception. On one hand it seems pretty clear that one is not going to hear or understand a percentage of what is said...but on the other hand hearing people still do not "get it" nonetheless.

    I wonder about the feasibility of teaching Deaf kids to "advocate for themselves". Is it possible that the kids simply do not know what they are missing and hesitate to advocate, fearful that it may be for nothing? One feels mighty foolish if one finds no one else understood it either. In most situations, however, the line is so unclear that one doesn't even know what question to ask.

    We need intuitive people who can get into the Deaf child's very thinking and pick up where one is missing things. Maybe it requires one who is also Deaf, or one who is extensively experienced with Deaf people. These are the people who truly understand and can diagnose, advocate, teach, and prescribe.

  6. In Jennifer's post, that teacher must be one of those people who think all one have to do is turn up the volume really loud, and it would be just as good as hearing aids. now while I can hear something without my HAs if I turn the volume full blast and close to my ears, it is still distorted and muffled.... like a bad radio signal from a far distance (it is still not loud enough). they also think I can hear tv, radio, etc. clearer (when aided) they have to turn the volume up

  7. From talking with the student, she explained that she thought the teachers knew what they were doing, so she did not think that she should say anything. She got the impression that they were fine with the fact that she did not seem interested. So, this is where I stepped in to urge her to start advocating for herself more.

    Hopefully, she now understands that she has a responsibility to speak up, even if it seems unimportant or if it should be obvious to others.

    This is a high school student, by the way.

  8. You have to have an assertive and strong personality to "advocate" for yourself while in school. I don't know how the shy ones do it. :(

  9. Yes, I think we all felt teachers know what they are doing. It wasn't until I was older and looked back and realize how ignorance they can be.

  10. You have to realize that most of the teachers I work with are dealing with at least five other specialists and service providers, like myself. They also have to manage a classroom of 25 or so children, at least three of them will have special needs. The teachers in high school usually have five or so different classes of 25 or so students. In addition to mountains of paperwork and ridiculous demands thrown at them, it is understandable that some of them will forget or not think about how to accommodate a hard of hearing student during certain situations.

    It is unfortunate that I cannot be there always.

  11. Yikes!

    When I was 11 or 12 and mainstreamed in middle school, I took one class which was about self discovery or something silly like that. One day, the teacher had each student draw a piece of paper; on that paper was a nursery rhyme. We then had to HUM the rhyme that we picked, and then go around the room and guess what each person was humming. It's virtually impossible to lipread a humming person!

    I told the teacher that I didn't know the rhythm for the one I picked since I always read to myself, so I couldn't hum it, and I wouldn't be able to dicipher any of the other rhymes anyway because it was too noisy with everyone humming.

    "Just try," she said. (I HATE when people say that!)

    "But, I can't hear!"

    "Do it anyway!"

    "But, I'm deaf! I can't hear!" I burst into tears, and ran to the girls' bathroom, bawling.

    I have never, ever defied a teacher, stood up for myself, or ran out of the classroom before. Afterwards, I went to the principal to complain since I knew I would get in trouble by the teacher anyway (which I did) and the principal was always supportive of me. (What kid voluntarily goes to the principal's office?!) I didn't care though; I knew even at 11 that she was completely wrong and insensitive. I think she wanted to give me detention or something, but when I told my mom and the principal what she did, it was dropped.

    I feel for that kid, and I believe that kids can be taught to adovcate for themselves. They might not get it right away, but they can.


  12. JK,
    What a brave kid you were! Good for you speaking up for yourself! That humming activity your teacher wanted you to do sounds ridiculous.

    I am glad you had an understanding principal. :)

  13. My music teacher decided to play the gossip game. (I guess something happened to him or someone that made him have this activity because it didnt have anything to do w/ music) what he did was circle the whole class and said something like this"i am going to whisper something to this person ear and she should repeat it to the next person in a whisper, the last person should tell the class what I whispered" well when it got to my turn i couldnt hear the whisper so i just went like this "blah, blah, blah" lol... of course the last person said blah blah blah lol he decided to play again but only this time i raised my hands and told him i couldnt play this game. So he let me out of the circle and i had to wait patiently. Anyway the moral of the game was gossips tend to to get twisted or changed or something like that.

  14. Anony @9:50,

    I am very familiar with the 'gossip' game you described. We called it 'telephone' when I was a kid. I hated that game. If I was seated where the person would whisper in my deaf ear, I had to awkwardly turn my head so they can whisper in my better ear. Still, I never could understand what was said. So, I was always the person that completely twisted what was said, because I usually completely made it up as I guessed what was whispered.

  15. This post and the one following this (games Deaf people don't really enjoy) reminded me of when I was in Elementary school, and every so often, they would bring this puppet show -- something about manners or something like that. It was on a tape, but of course that didn't make any difference whether it was taped or live -- in either case, puppet shows are totally unlipreadable, as you know..... I recall one time finally the teacher found a transcript of the show and I could read along with it, but it still was pretty boring to read while the others were watching. Maybe it was just a boring show -- dunno.

  16. As for the self-advocacy issue, I think you're forgetting that mainstreaming is about promoting conformity to the Hearing norm (even though we Deaf cannot change what we are). When we're in situations where we know it will not work for us, we are often discouraged from trying to self-advocate. In addition, self-advocating calls attention to our difference, and many of us often were made to feel subtly ashamed of our difference, so we don't self-advocate.

  17. Don, we had a puppet show once . I did NOT enjoy it for the very same reasons as you.. It was on tape and not lipreadable. I didn't bother telling the teacher as I sat there like a good little girl like I usually do during the assembly.The irony was that this puppet show was about disabilities and even had a puppet wearing a phonic ear just like me. This deaf puppet was one of the main character . I will never know plot or story of the show though because I couldnt understand a single thing.

  18. I'm a bit late tuning in, but can totally relate. In 2nd grade, we would have to rotate stations in groups of 5 or so every week. There was always a station where we would have to listen to a story with headphone through a cassette player while reading along. I never bothered to put the headphones on (unless I saw the teacher nearby- was afraid I'd get in trouble!) I recall a specific incident where instead of listening to a story we had to listen to a song, and we were given a worksheet with blanks to fill in the lyrics. Of course, I couldn't hear a thing! I just handed in the paper without writing anything on it, but I recall being very nervous and embarrassed.

  19. Teaching the children to stand up for themselves is definitely needed -- because its a two way situation. There were times in my mainstream elementary school when I didn't speak up. Ex. Verbal pop quizzes or following along in the books in reading class as they read out loud. Situations like this made me constantly nervous and sometimes it was embarrassing when I had to interrupt in the middle of class and tell my teacher that I cannot do something AND the problem still isn't solved properly. Its not like they neglect to help... they just didn't help in the way I needed them to. I would try doing the verbal quizzes, and they would constantly repeat it over and over (sometimes just for me) - but I still would feel stuck trying to figure out what the question is -- and just like PINKLAM did, I would leave blanks if I didn't hear the question. In my case, its better to have my quizzes on paper - it was part of my education plan too - but not every teacher follows that every time. I wish I'd had more confidence to speak up and not feel embarrassed by my situation. Being educated mainstream and being the only deaf person there - wasn't easy> The embarrassments and the struggles you have in the classroom can also affect you socially with your classmates and friends. You know it was partially my choice to be in mainstream because I know if I'd wanted to attend a special school -- I could have because my brother did. But at the time, I felt that by going to a deaf or special school, I would miss out on learning MORE because other deaf people my age in the area weren't learning at my pace. Now that I look back, I'm not quite sure what to think -- because even though I succeeded and got honors in mainstream, it still affected my confidence level over the years.

  20. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences and stories. I can relate to every one of them.

  21. Your kids are lucky to have you!

    For teachers who think that amplification is all that is needed to help people with hearing loss, it could be very helpful to play the "Getting Through" tape or something similar that has sound files with more and more higher frequency sounds filtered out. They may also need to be reminded that amplification can't restore hearing at frequencies where one is deaf.

    Also, whenever headphones are provided, a neckloop or silhouette inductors should be provided for people who have telecoils in their hearing aids or CI processors. (I carry them with me in my purse.) Double or single silhouettes don't require as much power as neckloops do and are also better for use in places with electromagnetic interference, but the student may need some help learning how to put them on and to turn the volume control up if the telecoil is set at too low a level.

    I agree that self-advocacy can be difficult for many students to exercise, but I think it's still very important to point out to them that they will frequently run into people who have made incorrect assumptions and that they themselves have the right to try to negotiate a better solution for their needs to be met. Sometimes it might not be possible to figure out a solution right away, but often it's still possible to figure out how to make things better the next time around, rather than simply accepting a lack of access.


Keep it civil.