Everyone has a tendency to rely on the “experts” when questions arise. This is especially true in the areas of a child’s physical fitness for entry into the educational process, where such things as vision and hearing play such important roles, but have you ever considered asking the question, “Do the experts have all the tools needed to do a thorough job?”
Consider this scenario. You go to an audiologist to have a hearing test. The technician puts you into this little room with thick walls and a large window so you can see each other but only hear each other through headphones. The technician then plays various sounds at different pitches and different volumes and asks you to press a button when you hear any sound. The sound you hear is always a sharp tone on the same order as a brass trumpet or bell. You identify every trial and are given a report saying your hearing is perfectly normal. The only problem is that you know full well that you can’t hear the soft sounds such as P, B, and T. The audiologist says (s)he never heard of such a thing, but it exists. It’s called “soft syllable deafness,” and its similar to what you hear at the swimming pool when your head is under water.
What do you do now? There is no evidence to present to the school that you have a hearing loss, so there is no way to get the school to accommodate the need to sit in the very first row in the classroom. There is no documentation for a special program of instruction. There is nothing but frustration with a system that doesn’t work. But why doesn’t it work?
Because the research and instrumentation available to the “experts” in the field of audiology are inadequate, outdated, and functionally useless, consequently the hearing aids that are manufactured are inadequate, outdated, and functionally useless in daily life. Yet no one believes you because the “experts” would know if there was something wrong, right? The fact that the same situation exists with vision and is being addressed by functional ophthalmologists has no counterpart in the field of audiology.
So, how do you tell if a child is “soft syllable deaf”? You whisper soft-syllable words of interest to them when their back is turned and see if they respond. Another is to ask the child to say the words “pin” and “pen.” Can they hear and say the difference between the two? If not, then more detailed functional tests need to be considered. These need to be conducted by a medical ear specialist, not an audiologist, as the cause for this type of deafness can vary greatly, from inner ear canals that are closed due to infection or simply an accumulation of thick mucous from infections in the past that have never drained, to TMJ joints that have lost their padding and collapsed into the hearing canal, on down to nutritional deficiencies, or damage from trauma.
If the teacher is the only one suspecting that this may be the root cause of some targeted learning difficulty, the easiest and most efficient and effective remedy is to keep the child within close proximity when teaching. If there is time, the child can also be taught the rudimentary elements of lip reading, either in the school setting or in a setting outside the school system.
Lip reading can be learned without a great deal of official involvement, little expense and great advantage to the child for the rest of their life. Furthermore, the other children will never know about the hearing loss unless the child decides to make it public knowledge, short-circuiting the natural tendency of children to taunt and bully someone who is “different.”