Using technology to help students with partial/low hearing

This post was created by PGCert participants as part of their assessment for Unit 1 of the course. The brief was to choose two specific learning needs and evaluate technologies that could help students with these needs to learn more effectively.

1 in 6 of the UK adult population is affected by hearing loss according to Hearing Link a leading UK-wide charity.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, there are 466 million people who have disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss affects a very large diverse community that contains a wide range of differences and nuances. The National Association of the Deaf noted some of these difference as follows;

  •  There are variations in how a person becomes deaf or hard of hearing, level of hearing, age of onset, educational background, communication methods, and cultural identity;
  • The lowercase deaf is used when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing;
  • The uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a language;
  •  “Hard-of-hearing” can denote a person with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Or it can denote a deaf person who doesn’t have/want any cultural affiliation with the Deaf community. (National Association of the Deaf)

CJ noted that although there is a “body of research on academic and social-emotional needs of deaf and culturally Deaf, the educational literature investigating the needs of students with less severe hearing loss is much less extensive” (Dalton, 2011, p.28). As a consequence, this community faces multiple challenges impacting their socio-emotional wellbeing and sense of self-identity (ibid.p.28). Research has been shown that they may be more at risk of “negative peer experiences culminating in reduced confidence in academic and social interactions” (ibid.p.34). Furthermore, the signature pedagogies (Shulman, 2005) in creative arts education are often conversational and/or dialogic; tutorials, crits, seminars etc. These signature pedagogies may be exclusionary to learners with partial/low hearing, and further to this these students may encounter unforeseen problems. 

An example of these issues are highlighted by the educational theorist Paolo Freire who puts dialogic exchange at the heart of his pedagogy:

“Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-students with student-teachers” (Freire, 1970:53)

So, if dialogue and discussion are one of the core features of our signature pedagogies, how can we support students who have low/partial hearing and create more inclusive learning environments? In essence, how do students with partial hearing loss fully engage with dialogic learning environments? 

Examples of remedies to this problem include the use of Hearing Loops; a piece of adaptive technology that allows students to access lecture or tutorial sound through hearing aids or cochlear implants (UCA Inclusivity Guide) directly from the PA/microphone system in lecture theatre/teaching environments. This mitigates against sound interference and can be an aid in being able to follow spoken presentations more clearly. However, not all students will use hearing aids and other students may have no hearing available at all; in this instance, we should consider other, more suitable assistive technologies. 

Further options are offered by the use of other assistive technologies such as speech-to-text apps. Over the past few years, there have been significant advances in speech-to-text technologies, and we have researched some of the best apps currently available. We would recommend AVA for group work, as it can transcribe a conversation with multiple speakers. Another app is Otter Ai for transcription accuracy.

In addition, Live Transcribe is a powerful tool, and importantly free for android phone users. 

Live Transcribe is specifically designed for people with hearing loss and/or partial/low hearing. The ASR technology transcribes live speech-to-text in real-time, making communication more accessible for low and partial hearing learners. Remarkably, the app can support over 70 languages and can quickly switch between languages during bilingual conversations.  This language switching feature is particularly beneficial for students who may have English as a second or other language. 

Lev Vygotsky (1978) emphasises the social construction of knowledge and the importance of language, social activity and social interactions as the most ‘significant cultural tool employed by learners’ (Aubrey & Riley, 2019:58). It should be the ambition of teachers and academics to ensure the inclusion of students with partial/low hearing to the full range of dialogic educational interactions and this can be made possible through the use of a wide range of current assistive technology.

Bibliography 

Aubrey & Riley (2019) Understanding Educational Theories. Sage Publications Ltd. p. 56-58

Dalton, C. J. (2011) Social-emotional Challenges Experienced by Students Who Function with Mild and Moderate Hearing Loss in Educational Settings. Exceptionality Education International. 28(1) p.28-45

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin p. 52-53

Shulman, L. (2005) Signature Pedagogies in the Professions. Daedalus. 134(3), 52-59 

Top ten tips for Teaching of Students with Hearing Loss, 12 October 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2EfxREKmsA (Retrieved on 29/01/2021)

World Health Organisation https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss (Accessed 27.01.21)

Hearing Link https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/about-hearing/facts-about-deafness-hearing-loss/ (Accessed 25.01.21)

National Association of the Deaf https://www.nad.org/resources/american-sign-language/community-and-culture-frequently-asked-questions/ (Accessed 27.01.21)

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