This section contains information that can be valuable for your child’s teacher. There are some excellent links at the bottom of this page to web pages that have detailed information about unilateral hearing loss (a hearing loss that affects only one ear) and give practical suggestions & strategies for teachers to use in the classroom. It may be beneficial to pass this information onto your child’s new teacher each year so they have a better understanding of your child’s hearing impairment.
While some people think that a child who has hearing in only one ear will not have any difficulties at school, current research indicates that these children are at a higher risk for significant problems in classroom performance. However, these children can do well in school when they have the same access to information & learning as their hearing peers. This can be achieved through the implementation of some simple strategies.
Do not assume that just because a child’s speech is clear, that they are able to hear everything clearly. The hearing impairment of a child with a unilateral hearing loss is not always obvious, so it is easy to overlook. Because one ear still has normal hearing, the child will hear adequately in ideal listening environments. However, school classrooms, where the majority of their formal learning is done, often do not provide ideal listening environments.
The main difficulties children with a unilateral hearing loss experience in a classroom include:
• Localising where sound is coming from
• Hearing when there is background noise (distinguishing speech from noise)
• Hearing soft sounds (e.g. s, f, th) and word endings (ed, ing, s, er)
• Hearing faint or distant speech
• Hearing sounds or speech directed towards their affected ear
• Children may seem lost in a noisy playground
Children with a unilateral hearing loss may
• Be more fatigued (The child has to work harder to listen and concentrate)
• Have difficulty maintaining their attention and concentration
• Appear inattentive, distracted or frustrated at times
• Have problems following group discussions
• Lack confidence in social activities
• Have mild communication problems
• Experience a dramatic drop in hearing when the have an ear infection / fluid
The following suggestions and strategies may assists teachers to help overcome some of the difficulties a child with a unilateral hearing loss experiences in the classroom.
• Reduce background noise as much as possible
• Seat the student away from noisy areas (e.g. doorway, open windows, heavy traffic areas, fans, noisy children)
• Ensure that the student is seated close to the teacher/speaker with their “good” ear directed towards the teacher and class. Allow the student to change seating positions for different activities to achieve the most effective listening position.
• Get the child’s attention & have eye contact with the child before speaking
• Provide visual support (facial expressions, gestures, body language, pictures, the blackboard etc)
• Make sure there is good lighting to maximise visual support
• Use cues (naming and pointing) to identify speakers in group discussions
• Check the student has a clear view of the whole class for participation in class discussions and activities
• Position yourself on the side of the child’s “good” ear
• Anticipate problems if speaking at a distance (noise may interfere with comprehension)
• Assign a “buddy” (someone the student can always ask if they have missed something or do not understand a direction or task)
• Strategies such as repeat, rephrase, simplify and clarify ensure the student’s understanding
• Speak clearly and naturally (exaggeration or shouting can make speech more difficult to understand)
• Provide a “wait” time for the student to respond ( the student may need more time to process information that is not heard clearly)
• Encourage the student to admit when they don’t hear or understand something
• Understand that if a child doesn’t acknowledge you when called or spoken to, it is likely that they have not heard you rather than disobedience or selective hearing.
• There is assistive technology available. Consider using an FM system to amplify the teacher’s voice and reduce the effects of background noise
• Monitor classroom performance & academic achievement closely
• Leave a note or information for relief teachers explaining the student’s hearing impairment & the necessary implications and strategies.
• Notify the student’s parents immediately if you suspect there is a drop in hearing
Links to useful information for your child’s teacher
The Hearing Impaired Child in the Classroom – Australian Hearing
Unilateral Hearing Loss – Education Queensland
Physical Environment (Hearing Impairment Information Sheet) – Education Queensland
Listening Devices (Hearing Impairment Information Sheet) – Education Queensland
Teaching Strategies (Hearing Impairment Information Sheet) – Education Queensland
Positive Classroom Environment (Hearing Impairment Information Sheet) – Education Queensland
Deaf in One Ear : The School Child – Westmead Children’s Hospital
Information on Unilateral Hearing Loss – Boystown National Research Hospital
Effects of Hearing Loss in One Ear – Texas Connect
Information Package – Hearing Screening and Support Services for First Nations Communities Focus Group
Communication Tips for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in the Classroom
Go Hear – Unilateral hearing loss in the classroom