Children who are diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are serviced under the disability condition of deafness/hearing impairment. Each year more than 12,000 babies are born with a hearing loss and oftentimes the cause is unknown. Profound deafness occurs in 4 to 11 children out of every 10,000 born and in at least 50% of those cases, the cause is genetic. Many states now mandate that all newborns be screened for hearing loss within hours of birth.
Hearing loss and deafness can be either acquired (occurred after birth) or congenital (occurred before birth). The most common cause of acquired hearing loss is exposure to noise. Some other causes include buildup of fluid behind the eardrum, ear infections, childhood diseases or head trauma. Congenital causes of hearing loss and deafness include family history, infections during pregnancy or complications during pregnancy.
Some of the signs that a child may not be hearing normally could include:
- Child does not respond consistently to sounds or to his/her own name
- Often asks for things to be repeated or says “huh?”
- Seems delayed in developing speech or has unclear speech
- Turns the volume up loud on TV or other electronic devices
Under IDEA, the nation’s special education law, the terms deafness and hard of hearing are defined separately as “deafness is a hearing impairment so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification” whereas “hard of hearing is an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating that adversely affects a child’s educational performance”.
For children diagnosed with deafness or hearing impairment who are ages birth to 3 years, early intervention services exist and are provided under the Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities program (also called Part C) under IDEA. Early intervention is essential to address the child’s developmental and learning needs as well as provide support to the family. Services for early interventions are provided free of charge or are based on a sliding cost scale depending on the family’s income. Once the child turns three, educational and related services are provided free through the public school system.
Hearing loss or deafness does not affect the child’s intellectual capacity or their ability to learn. However, children with this primary diagnosis often require some special education services in order to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE). Some services may include:
- On-going, regular speech, language and auditory training from a specialist
- Amplification systems
- Services of an interpreter for those who use sign language to communicate
- Preferential seating in class to facilitate lip reading
- Captioned films/videos
- Assistance of a note taker, so that the student can fully attend to instruction
Depending on your child’s unique learning needs, accommodations will be determined on an individual basis and written into the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which is reviewed at least once annually.