According to The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in eight individuals in the US is experiencing hearing loss in both ears. Moreover, 54% of adults with hearing loss have worked for a significant amount of time without disclosing it to their employers. Listening is an integral part of learning; to hear and understand is critical to process information and learn successfully. Moreover, a deaf or hard of hearing student’s hearing loss and classroom environment can hinder access to the teacher’s voice and, therefore, the student’s ability to learn. Hearing assistive technology (HATS) improves a student’s ability to hear the instructor. Hearing assistive technology compensates for learning deficits, classroom environment, and the shortcomings of hearing aids. The following article will outline some of the most prominent and commonly used hearing assistive technology and briefly discuss augmentative and alternative communication devices.
Hearing Assistive Technology
There are many technologies for deaf or hard on hearing individuals. Some of these devices include hearing aids, cochlear implants, both types of technologies are worn on the head or the body, lastly assistive technologies that are not used on the head or the body. According to NIDCD, “Assistive learning devices help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise”. Hearing loops, infrared systems, and FM systems are some of the most commonly known hearing assistive technologies.
The hearing loop system, also known as the induction loop system or a hearing loop, works with hearing aids and cochlear implants. They work using the preinstalled telecoil to transmit sound directly from the speaker’s microphone to the student’s hearing aid. Loop systems can be found in public spaces such as places of worship, and auditoriums and they help people with hearing difficulties take part in these activities. Individuals without hearing aids can still make use of loop systems by using regular headphones as an alternative. Loops are the most user-friendly of the various hearing assistive technology, and they are simple, discrete, and effective. The looped output does not raise the overall noise level, and it also removes the effect that the distance has on the signal. Since the signal is delivered directly into the student’s ears, the signal does not deteriorate due to distance or background noise.
Another hearing assistive technology is infrared systems, which are similar to loop systems. However, unlike loop systems, infrared systems transmit light waves to transmit signals and not electromagnetic signals. The system changes sound to light and sends them to a receiver, which then changes the light waves back into sound. The Infrared systems are used when more privacy is needed since they use light to transmit signals; signals cannot be transmitted through walls.
Frequency modulation (FM) systems are most commonly used in schools. An FM system resembles a radio station as it has its own frequency. Moreover, it consists of two parts; one part is a small microphone that the speaker (teacher) wears. The second part is a speaker attached to the hearing aids, or it can be put directly into the ears. This device allows the teacher’s voice to stream directly into the student’s ears. It is beneficial for student’s in a noisy classroom as it eliminates background noise.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices
Another type of assistive technology for deaf or hard on hearing students is augmentative and alternative communication devices. Augmentative devices help students with hearing difficulties understand others and better communicate themselves. NIDCD reports that touch screens, keyboards, and a “display panel… [that] faces outward so that two people can exchange information while facing each other” can help better communication. Schools can adopt these technologies in schools in classrooms as well as offices that provide students with services.
Modern Technology and Students with Hearing Difficulties
Technologies designed to help students with hearing difficulties are diverse. An example is automatic speech recognition software, which helps differentiate between different voices in the classroom. The transcribed text can help the student with hearing difficulties identify who said what. This technology can be very helpful during class discussions or when students speak out of turn.
Moreover, when these devices or other transcription products are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can be trained to understand the course material. Inputting more books and articles, current terminology and current events can make the system smarter and therefore better use.
Hearing Impaired Assistive Technology Helps all Students
Providing technology that helps hard on hearing or deaf students in classrooms can serve and benefit all students. Students that are studying in their second or third language might find it easier to follow captions. Moreover, academic transcription software can help students that do not have disabilities but struggle to take notes in class. Furthermore, students that have difficulties understanding specific topics can also find transcriptions beneficial.
Planning ahead is key to cater to diverse student needs. Preparing and equipping campuses with technology allows for personalized learning experiences and creating personalized learning paths for different students based on their needs.