Faculties and centres
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.
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:
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.