A good number of people have hearing difficulties and the problem increases with age, with the aging of the population. Although usually the student population is young, they are not exempt from suffering these difficulties. In fact, aging and exposure to noise are two of the most common causes of hearing impairments, but also coexistence with very noisy environments, continued exposure to very high sound sources, diseases and medicines with serious side effects.
Hearing of sounds and speech has two characteristics to take into account: the tone (frequency) and the intensity (volume). In a hearing test, the intensity levels needed to listen to a range of frequencies are evaluated. The information is recorded in an audiogram, where for each ear (O, X) the frequency in Hertz and the intensity in Decibel is shown. The general classification is:
|0 to 25 decibels||normal hearing|
|25-40 decibels||"light" hearing loss|
|40-70 decibels||"moderate" hearing loss|
|70-90 decibels||"severe" hearing loss|
|Greater than 90 decibels||"deep" hearing loss|
|Greater than 90 decibels||Cofosis|
People with deep hearing loss are called deaf, and people with hypoacusis are those who suffer from any hearing loss.
As in the cases of vision loss, there is a huge variability in cases of hearing loss. From slight hearing losses, average ones, severe ones and even deep deafness. There are different casuistries which prove that there are not two identical cases. It is also very important to consider the time of occurrence of the impairment. It is usually taken into account whether it was before (pre-lingual) or after (post-linguistic) the acquisition of speech. Therefore, the selected support product will also depend on these factors and we will not follow the generalized idea, for example, that with a hearing aid a deaf person is already integrated into the classroom.
- Furthermore, it is a "hidden" characteristic. Some affected people perform lip reading and can mask their real situation, going almost unnoticed when, really, they only capture 30% of the message at most. Sometimes, the loss is gradual over time and the person does not realize that he does not hear as well as he should, losing a lot of information along the way.
- Another very important factor is the support received in the family and educational environment in previous stages. The way to deal with the situation and the solutions proposed at an early age from these areas greatly condition future personal adaptation to higher education environments and society in general. The negative effect of inappropriate approaches reverts in difficulties of linguistic development, problems of comprehension, of vocabulary, of social relations and of educational backlog in general
Following Villalba et. Al. (2005) we could differentiate two large groups of people with hearing impairment:
People whose hearing, although faulty, with or without a hearing aid (cochlear implant or hearing aid), achieve a sufficient control of the oral language, using it as an instrument of communication and a common means of learning.
People with pre-lingual hearing impairment whose hearing, even with support products, is not functional for common purposes of life. Vision is their main channel of information input and they use oral language based on vision (lipreading, word complementation, dactylology, writing ...) or they use sign language. The visual channel is their main means of communication, in many cases using codes other than oral language for learning.
To reduce this difficulty, the technological development of the last decades has provided increasingly sophisticated equipment and products, maintaining a wide range of prices. The most recent include the following characteristics:
- Directional microphone systems
- Ambient or space microphonic systems
- Possibility of self-learning
- Reduction of environmental noise, wind, etc.
- Configurable for different sound spaces
There is already a general tendency towards the use of amplifiers for the reception of intra-auricular sound. However, detecting of people with hearing problems in classroom becomes even more difficult with its use. It is then when the student has to talk about his situation because the product of support does not fully resolved the situation.
There is also an increase in the use of noise reduction systems such as induction loops that allow the person with limited hearing to be located anywhere in the classroom without any disturbances.
On the other hand, computer applications such as text to speech converters and vice versa are also increasing, such as synthesizers and speech recognition products and amplification systems.
In any case, we should bear in mind that there is no global solution that fits all people, but it depends on personal needs to find and individual solution that satisfies them as best as possible.
The degree of hearing loss, the timing of appearance, the visual experience of the person and their environment determine the scope of the disability and the possible resources to be used to counteract its negative effects. These aspects configure different needs and communication possibilities, being precise in each case:
- Using oral language (with lip reading) and sign language
- using support products to boost oral communication
Since the auditory pathway is altered, the main channel of information is the visual one. However, the main route through which language and speech develops is the auditory pathway. Therefore, the moment of appearance (pre-lingual vs. post-lingual) of the auditory limitation will condition the subsequent development of the individual.
However, the specific educational implications will depend on the degree of hearing loss. In mild cases, the affectation will be minimal, with small phonetic alterations in speech generation and slight information losses (if a support product that makes up for it is available). In moderate cases, the alterations in the spoken language will be more evident and the implications in the self-concept and the social relations will be able to appear significantly. In severe cases, the recognition and production of speech will be seriously affected, understanding will be deficient, isolation and personality disorders will also be more evident.
- The place where the student is located will determine the communicative quality that they have. The physical conditions of the classroom, such as lighting and sound, must be taken into account. The person speaking must look directly at the person with a hearing loss. Excessive physical distance between teacher and student makes lip-facial reading difficult.
- It has to facilitate and procure quality communication processes: Access to information and communication is essential. All possible technological and human means must be provided to facilitate the flow of information and communication (Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems). The FM stations and magnetic loops are not mere whims of these students, they are the only way to perceive the information in the classroom. The size of the classrooms makes it difficult to use some support products such as typical hearing aids. The audioprosthesis or cochlear implants are often not enough to guarantee quality communication.
- Visual aids are fundamental. Through ICT and multisensory resources, the acquisition of concepts and procedures must be encouraged.
- Cognitive development is affected by the information deficit and lack of use of their personal and life experiences. The motivation will be affected. Planning and organisation, socio-affective development and the acceptance of norms, the discourse of the internal language, reading comprehension will be affected to varying degrees. Therefore, all actions aimed at strengthening these deficits will be positive.
- Continuous need to obtain information regarding their environment, the monitoring of classes, practices, trips, etc. (eg through tutorials of the virtual campus). Need for interaction with their peers to share meanings, participation in class. Need to encourage the feeling of self-efficacy.
- They will need more time to do the work, tests, projects, etc. Continuous supervision.
- Clear and precise explanation of the evaluation tests, of the statements, of the formal aspects of the tests, etc.
- Peer support.
- ICT and multimedia: virtual tutorials, subtitled videos, PUA's and accessible virtual learning environments, benefit these students.
- ALEGRÍA, J.; DOMÍNGUEZ, A. B. (2009): Los alumnos sordos y la lengua escrita. Revista Latinoamericana de Educación Inclusiva [Recurso en línea]
- DÍEZ, M.A.; LEÓN, D. (2010): Situación y necesidades de los estudiantes sordos y con discapacidad auditiva. Fundación CNSE.
- Fundación CNSE. Estudios sobre la Lengua de Signos Española. [Recurso en línea]
- Fundación CNSE. Guía de buenas prácticas en las universidades para la juventud sorda. [Recurso en línea]
- GARCÍA, F.J.; HERRERO J. (Coord.). Manual de atención al alumnado con NEAE derivadas de discapacidad auditiva. Junta de Andalucía. Conserjería de Educación.