Why Is Your Educational Audiologist Important?

By Mike Macione, Ph.D.

Parents of students who are deaf and hard of hearing would be wise to get to know their school district’s educational audiologist. Hopefully, you are lucky enough to live in a school district that has its own educational audiologist, or access to one.

Hearing and auditory function have significant impact on the development and use of language and communication which can affect academic progress and outcomes for students. Educational audiologists are uniquely qualified to facilitate support for students with hearing loss in the educational system.

In addition to identifying a student’s hearing loss, the educational audiologist has knowledge and skills regarding the impact of hearing loss on learning, ability to suggest relevant educational goals and benchmarks in developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and experience with strategies and technology for support within the classroom for both the student and the teacher.  Educational audiologists are also trained in diagnosing auditory processing disorders and recommending remediation or compensation strategies.

Educational Audiology Defined

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines the practice of audiology in educational settings as follows:

  • Identification of children with hearing loss 
  • Determination of the range, nature, and degree of hearing loss, including referral for medical or other professional attention for the habilitation of hearing
  • Provision of habilitative activities, such as language habilitation, auditory training, speechreading, hearing evaluation and speech conservation
  • Creation and administration of programs for hearing loss prevention
  • Counseling and guidance of children, parents and teachers regarding hearing loss
  • Determination of children’s needs for group and/or individual amplification, and selecting and fitting appropriate amplification 

Roles of the Educational Audiologist

Educational audiologists can also recommend other qualified service providers for families. There are many professionals that may be part of an educational team for a child or adolescent who is deaf or hard of hearing, including, but not limited to, a speech-language pathologist, early childhood specialist, educational psychologist, teacher, clinical audiologist, otolaryngologist and pediatrician.

Educational audiologists are instrumental in helping families choose providers that meet their unique needs as a family. Educational audiologists also have an ongoing role in (re)habilitation services.  Although not all educational audiologists provide direct intervention services for children, many do.

The educational audiologist’s primary purpose for being involved in the habilitation of students with hearing loss is to facilitate the maximum use of auditory input during the learning process.  (Re)habilitation includes involvement with equipment, involvement with teaching and learning strategies, and knowledge of environmental acoustics in any situation where learning takes place. The educational audiologist may assume this role in the form of direct service, indirect service or in some combination of these two. Direct services are usually delivered on a regularly scheduled basis, while indirect services are delivered on an as-needed basis.

The Educational Audiologist as a Family Resource

Educational audiologists offer families an unbiased perspective regarding local, regional and state resources. They work with families to empower them in their children’s education and to utilize available resources to assist their child.

Educational audiologists have an opportunity to provide services to children in settings that are comfortable to both the child and the parent. In most situations, educational audiologists can support families in their homes— observing children in their customary environments. This opportunity helps educational audiologists build relationships with families that result in effective communication and encourage partnerships when developing IFSPs and IEPs.

The educational audiologist may also provide information to help families adjust to communication in other environments, such as riding in the car, shopping, restaurants, etc. This support may include providing technology and instructing families on the appropriate use of the technology for those situations.

Consistent Member of the Child’s Team

Educational audiologists provide a critical link within the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) process. School-based audiologists are in a unique position to facilitate and support the developmental and educational management of children with hearing difficulties before they enter school.

After the birth of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, educational audiologists can support families through the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) process by being knowledgeable regarding all service options available to infants and young children with hearing loss. They also are instrumental in guiding families through the transition process from Part C to Part B services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Many times, educational audiologists will function as service coordinators to children and youth who are deaf and hard of hearing from the time of identification until they graduate from high school. Educational audiologists serve as a vital link between families and other service providers, including community-based audiologists, cochlear implant teams, physicians and community family service agencies. As infants reach preschool and then school-age, educational audiologists become an essential part of the school team responsible for each child’s educational services. When educational audiologists are involved from the time of diagnosis, they provide a measure of consistency for families as their children transition to preschool.

Further Reading

DeConde Johnson, C., & Seaton, J. (2011). Educational Audiology Handbook (2nd Ed.). Independence, KY: Delmar Learning.

DeConde Johnson, C., & Macione, M. (2011). Early Hearing Detection and Intervention eBook.  “Chapter 19: The Role of Educational Audiologists in the EHDI Process.” Logan, Utah: National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, Utah State University. Retrieved from http://www.infanthearing.org/ehdi-ebook/index.html

Educational Audiology Association (2009). Recommended Professional Practices for Educational Audiology. Retrieved from http://www.edaud.org/associations/4846/files/Professional%20Practices_pos09_REVISED.pdf  

Source: Volta Voices, September/October 2013