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Dynamics Of Classroom Listening |12 Challenges Or Barriers When Listening To Learn.


Classroom Listening:

A Dynamic & Important Element When Teaching The Hearing Impaired.

There are two other factors that complicate how children perceive verbal instruction in the classroom. Those factors are their distance from the teacher and changes in the loudness of the teacher’s voice during the day. Total communication, along with good eye contact is always expected among teacher and student.

Parents and teachers can easily notice that if a child with hearing loss is at some distance, he or she will be less likely to respond to speech, especially if noise is present from a busy fast-food resaurant or other noisy setting.

Teachers typically move throughout the classroom as they teach and provide instructions.  It’s so important that children communicating and interacting with their instructor is an ongoing task. Therefore, they may be close to the student sometimes and far away at other times.

Also, teachers change the loudness of their voice throughout the day in response to background noise level, emotional intensity and fatigue.

As a result, the loudness of the teacher’s speech relative to the noise (S/N), is constantly varying even if the child is always seated at the front of the classroom.

Distance of the child’s ear or the teacher’s microphone from the teacher’s lips.

Classroom acoustics can affect teacher voices and student listening. The constantly varying S/N is the reason why merely seating the child close to the teacher will be inadequate to meet the child’s speech perception needs in a typical classroom setting. Preferential seating is not enough!

The relationship between the S/N and the distance from the teacher is illustrated in the chart. The level of background (ambient) noise in an occupied classroom can be 60 dB.

If you will remember, the typical vocal loudness of the teacher is also 60 dB sound pressure level (SPL). Both the loudness of the teacher’s voice and the background noise vary continuously resulting in periods in which the S/N may be relatively favorable (i.e., +10 S/N) to unfavorable (i.e., -6 S/N).

Most classrooms have background noise levels that result in a range of S/N occurring from -6 dB to +10 dB. Changes in S/N vary from moment to moment throughout the day.

Even children seated close to the front row may be 6 to 12 feet from the teacher as she moves about the front of the room. In order for the entire speech signal to be above the background noise, the S/N must be +15 dB (this assumes no benefit from early reflected sound).

Children with hearing loss, because they typically don’t perceive speech as loudly or as completely as people with normal hearing, require a S/N even greater than +15 dB if they’re to truly have equal access to verbal instruction.

The loudness of the teacher’s voice is also an important factor that needs to be taken into account when considering S/N.

Some teachers speak loudly, others have quieter voices. Classrooms with inappropriate levels of background noise require a teacher to raise the loudness of her voice for hours each day.

Reducing background noise in a classroom to an appropriate level is an obvious way to try to achieve a +15 S/N.

For children with hearing loss, the S/N level present in a classroom will be both inconsistent and insufficient to meet the listening needs of the child with hearing loss.

Addressing 12 Challenges or Barriers When Listening to Learn


  1. Hearing loss causes a reduced “listening bubble” that is improved by hearing aids or cochlear implants, but normal hearing is not restored.
  2. Child misses some of the communication naturally occuring in their evironment but beyond their “listening bubble.”
  3. The resulting gaps in language or world knowledge may be minimal to substantial.
  4. Speech may be perceived with some sounds  missing (i.e. high frequency consonants).
  5. Hearing aids or cochlear implants deliver speech at a quieter loudness than what is typically heard by persons with normal hearing.
  6. Ability to attend to verbal instruction varies over time with auditory and visual distractions, level of fatigue and interest.
  7. When the speech puzzle is incomplete and smeared, the high pitch rapid speech of classmates can be incompletely heard and peer relationships may be affected.
  8. Teacher vocal loudness, distance, and background noise change continuously.
  9. Accoustic energy of speech decreases the farther away the child is from the teacher.
  10. Background noise covers up quieter parts of speech.
  11. Reverberation affects clarity of the perception of speech by smearing sounds, adding noise due to prolonged sound reflections and shortening the critical distance for listening.
  12. When more effort is needed to perceive speech less energy is available to meaningfully comprehend what has been said and achievement is affected.

As previously described, there are many challenges or barriers to listening that often occur for the child with hearing loss who is listening to learn in a typical classroom.baby-do-sign

Children are amazingly resilient and adaptable. Learning does occur for children with hearing loss, especially when the educational system accommodates the child’s difficulties perceiving verbal communication in the classroom. We can address barriers to learning.

Teachers can become aware of the effects of the day-to-day challenges to each child’s ability to learn in a typical educational environment.


Addressing Challenges in the Learning Environment


All professionals who have the responsibility to educate children with hearing loss should recognize that hearing impaired kids have challenges in the learning environment that are barriers to their equal access to instruction and academic success.

As has been mentioned, all children in the classroom have the challenge of listening in order to comprehend information presented verbally while in the presence of inappropriate levels of background noise or reverberation.

Listening is a primary gateway to learning and although we cannot expect the millions of classrooms across the country to provide ideal acoustic conditions, we can acknowlege that inadquate classroom acoustics provide a clearly identifiable learning barrier.

Educational environments that have inadequate acoustic conditions can cause irreparable erosion of achievement for children with hearing loss by preventing them from optimally accessing verbal instruction.

The ability to achieve in the classroom is related directly to the ability to access verbal instruction.

Therefore, Classroom acoustics is a vital consideration when determining the need for accommodations and specialized instuction that a student with hearing loss will need for success.


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I consider myself one of the most hardest working, helpful guy in regards to online marketing. Earned my Associate Degree in 2000. majoring in mortuary science and hearing loss in children and adults.

14 comments on “Dynamics Of Classroom Listening |12 Challenges Or Barriers When Listening To Learn.”

  • Hello Ronald,

    How many aspects that I never thought of as with children with hearing disabilities? Characteristics that may or may not help these children. The teacher’s tone of voice, When walking talking. The architecture of the classroom. The annoying noises outside the classroom, etc. The schools must take into account all these questions, if we want to have excellent future professionals.

    Thank you for sharing such a useful article for me.



    • You hit it right on the head, Claudio. Many aspects must unfold and set in place within a classroom setting, for the comfort and convenience of a disabled child. It all starts with the school’s administrative board to recognize how many hearing impaired children our in the school’s system, then hire the most qualified people to teach. 

  • What an in-depth article , I am so glad I came across it. I have a friend whose child has a problem with hearing problems, I am not sure how bad the problem is but I know it’s affecting them gravely. I intend to share the knowledge from this article with them with the hope they can get some guidance that they can also share with the child’s teachers in the hope that in a small way they can work through the challenges and barriers of defective hearing and help their child in the best way possible.

    I will be back to find out more on hearing aids,and where to find them, I hope that will be ok? Thank you.

    • Thank you Flo. Sharing this information will be just what it’s all about in regards to helping someone less informed. Children that’s hearing impaired will always struggle within the hearing community. In school, certain guidelines and specialized instructors must be in place. In regards to hearing aids, I will be posting an article on the subject very soon.

  • I know all too well about hearing loss.  As an adult I suffer from sudden sensoral hearing loss.  I will act like I am hearing and respond, which may not be a response that even has to do with what was being said to me.  I may pretend I don’t hear at all and just ignore, easier than explaining that I can’t hear, or I may make up excuses.  All these can be present for children as well.  I know that it is frustrating, and probably more so for children in a classroom with hearing loss.  I know where there is more noise around me, then I really cannot hear.  I also have no sense of direction as to where a sound is coming from.

    • MM, hearing loss can be a tough thing in life for children and adults. I think school children dealing with this issue have it the toughest going through life. Functioning among the non-deaf can feel like a whole different world. Unless there’s special programs for children, then they’ll always struggle through life in regards to getting a proper education. 

  • Hey Ronald,

    I recently started teaching one hour classes for eSports at a local university as part of our contract and man, it is definitely hard the first few times! No one would take you seriously unless you show tell them something they like and once they got hooked, tell them something about yourself that would make them wow even more. 

    I find storytelling a powerful medium to help students regain focus and started listening to you more as they tend to lose attention pretty quick. Not sure that it is in line with the classroom listening topic but it does help too. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    • Yes my friend Riaz, your 2 cents count. Any good reply is taken well into consideration. You mentioned storytelling in classrooms. Storytelling should be read to all students. This is great, as long as the child can hear you and respond. Sign language is a great tool, but have to be administered separately to those in need. This is where special needs teachers come in play.

  • Ronald Kennedy, 

    You have highlighted a very important topic in child barriers when listening to learn. With this much information it can help an early child teacher to eliminate the barriers, and make sure every child is on the same page when teaching is in progress. I liked the 12 Challenges or Barriers When Listening to Learn and how you have written them in details.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you Martin for checking in with me. Teachers in our society today have a hard enough time with regular students, let alone disabled ones. But children with hearing disabilities has to be taught too. Through training, special need teachers should always be available to assist students when needed. 

  • Hi Ronald,

    What a very interesting subject.

    It is a world away from my world. I am now 55 and also don’t have hearing issues.

    I do remember when I was at school, there did not really seem to be many faculties for for hard of hearing kids.

    I’m just curious, are teachers today taught to look out for kids with hearing loss?

    Good job!


    • Hi Tim. Thanks for checking in. Hearing loss affects many families. Children in a regular school who’s suffering from some type of hearing disability. have the hardest time. If a teacher notice a child not paying attention, not absorbing the daily lesson and producing bad grades, then, through the process of elimination, a hearing issue may be uncovered. Further steps are then taken.

  • Awesome information most teachers should know their student’s abilities and work with them to give them a greater chance at learning.

    My sister was working with preschool children and is good at teaching them sign language at an early age.

    You do have some repeating words like the following;

    should recognize that children with hearing loss should recognize that children with hearing loss

    I now use Grammarly on Google to check my writing it’s free and they do have a premium service.

    Overall I love your information anything that helps kids today is a winner in my book.

    Do you think a teacher would benefit the children if they learn sign language? Let me know your thoughts.


    • Hi Carl, Thanks for checking in with me. For starters, let me thank you for pointing out the ‘errors of my ways.’ The correction was made. (That happened from staying up too late writing or too much Hennesy; probably both!)LOL. But on a serious note, hearing loss regarding children is devastating among any parent. 

      Hats off to your sister regarding her skills in handling deaf children. To answer your question; I feel it goes without saying that teachers who specialize in this field, should learn sign to better communicate with the hearing impaired. A regular teacher in a normal school setting shouldn’t worry about learning sign unless it was part of his or her job requirement.

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