Today, we returned to the Cen Cenai public preschool center (like HeadStart in the US) to continue our screenings for hearing, vision, cognition, speech, and language. Overall, we were able to screen about 75 children and provide appropriate recommendations for follow-up as needed. Conducting the hearing screenings was difficult, however, due to the incredibly noisy environment at the school. As I mentioned before, the walls are concrete and the floors are tile. Windows are left open for ventilation, and the room in which we were screening was right next to the children’s play area, which was partially enclosed, further echoing all of the noise. As such, it was difficult to hear the 25dB tones we presented via portable audiometer, and the OtoAcoustic Emissions (OAE) tester we brought would give false negatives due to background noise quite frequently. It was far from ideal, but we made it work and, hopefully, provided the children (and their parents and teachers) with valuable information that will help them reach their full potentials.
Classroom acoustics are an important part of helping deaf student succeed in the mainstream. While the easy to clean tile floors and large open spaces of most elementary school classrooms make them ideal for the messy, experiential learning that is so crucial to development in the first few years of school, they also add up to an acoustic nightmare for a student with impaired hearing. Even a 15-20 dB loss (as quiet as leaves rustling!) can have significant educational impact. How can you help?