Airplane, Hot dog, Cowboy..

Life in the Real World

By Janet DesGeorges

It is the basic right of deaf and hard of hearing individuals - to have equal access!

If you have been to any amount of audiology appointments, the title of this article will make perfect sense. If not, those are typical words (for some reason) audiologists use to test our child's response in the sound booth. Our kids are tested in a sound booth, rated on their ability to hear certain sounds, words, and noises. We get an audiogram that plots our child's ability to hear. But how does your child hear out there in the real world (such as a classroom setting with other kids, noises in the hallway, heater/ventilation systems kicking on and off?)

A few years ago, our school district audiologist performed a "Functional Listening Evaluation" for our daughter Sara in her classroom after school. Tests were performed on Sara's ability to respond to words with the following criteria: with and without background noises, close and far from the speaker, and visual: lip-reading and mouth covered. Below you can see a matrix of her performance on the test.

*When the FM trainer was used on this test (distant/noise/auditory only) it was 84%

(Without FM)










Auditory only





It's amazing! Sara, who has a severe hearing loss, had the speech receptivity of 96% in a close up/quiet situation. At the other end of the spectrum, 8 feet from the speaker, with no visual clues (lip-reading) and background noise introduced into the environment, her speech receptivity was only 28%! It's like a different child! This issue must be addressed. Before it can be addressed on a student's IEP, you must understand how your child has access to auditory information at any given time. The Functional Listening Evaluation (in the Educational Audiology Handbook by author Cheryl Johnson) is an easy to do test you can request from your school district audiologist. The information we received helped our daughter's IEP team create discussions about adaptations in the classroom environment, FM usage, visual adaptations, Interpreter services etc. It has been an excellent tool to communicate the importance of access to our daughter's general educators. It also made us think about the playground, the cafeteria, and the gymnasium, especially when there are assemblies. We have not solved all the issues related to background noise, but at least there is now a sensitivity that did not exist before.

As parents, we must be aware of how our kids are using their residual hearing in the real world, and use all the tools available within our reach to give our kids access to communication in their world - whether it be visual or auditory. It is the basic right of deaf and hard of hearing individuals - to have equal access!


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