Teacher With Newly Diagnosed Loss Very Frustrated in the Classroom

I have been having troubles hearing my students ever since covid started and everyone started wearing masks. I did not know I was lip reading before covid, but I must have been, because now to to what they are saying, I find that I have to keep my sixth graders extremely quiet, asking them to repeat, and finally having to get the one kid with the loud voice to repeat things for me in groups discussions. I also end up walking right next to them and putting my left ear right next to their mouths when there are other children talking in the room (group work) and I’m really struggling to be able to do my job. I finally decided that maybe I should see a doctor, but she could not find anything wrong with my ears and referred me for a hearing test, and my audiogram is available on my profile. Basically, the audiologist said that my loss was slight to mild, and mostly in the low frequencies, and therefor was not in a range that would be particularly helped by hearing aids, by I could consider trying an FM system. She recommended rearranging my classroom to put the quiet kids in the front row, reassured me that everyone is having a hard time hearing with masks, and told me that I had likely had this hearing loss my entire life and I am only bothered by it now because the kids are in masks. She is probably right, because I was not really bothered by it before, though I do always watch TV with the captions on and like to sit in the front row. The audiologist told me to come back for another test in 5 years or if anything changes and then sent me on my way.

I have already rearranged my classroom, and I bought my self a small PA system so that the kids could pass around a microphone, which does help with understanding some of them in big group discussions, but it useless once they start working. I have tried keeping the volume in the classroom down super low (they are only allowed to whisper to each other, and I have a really good class). But I’m still not hearing them well, and I’m missing information in staff meetings now that they are in person again, and things like when cashiers talk too. And reflecting on it, I stopped going out with my friends too once masks became a thing because it was just too hard to communicate.

I am kind of at a loss on what else to do, because I am still really frustrated. Is this a second opinion type of situation, if I should be considering the FM system with a pair of headphones to help in the classroom, or is everyone really this frustrated and confused all of the time. Maybe I just need to commiserate?

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You dont have a huge amount of hearing loss, but you certainly sound like you are having lots of problems and your listening situations are quite complex (classroom / meetings etc). If you were my patient I’d be trying you with hearing aids - You will not know how well they’ll work for you until you wear them. I have certainly fit patients with a hearing profile similar to yours who get significant benefit from devices.

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@annaivanovacanada, when you look at your audiogram do you see a “word recognition score” (wrs)? If so, what is that score for each ear? Did your audi give you a WRS test? That would usually be a recording of a voice saying “Say the word Cat. Say the word Pick.” And so on.
If you weren’t given such a test I think you should go back to the audi (or a different audi) and get one. The results of that test might give you some clues as to what’s going on.
Also you might want to download a program called “LACE” (Listening and Conversation Enhancement). I think it costs about $75. It is a training program to help with your word recognition.
Hope this helps. Good luck.

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Can you post the link to the software, I’d be interested.

By the way, I’m still teaching, although in a combined classroom. So I have another teach help with clarifying student question for me.

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Remember, for every doctor in the top half of their class there is one in the bottom half. Get a second opinion.

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Geez, annaivanovacanada! You have my utter empathy! It’s hard enough to be a student in a masked classroom, but being the teacher is really the Olympic challenge in these times.

Have you talked to your colleagues to see if THEY also have a similar problem? If they do not, then consider the suggestion of trying aids! You could possibly even get by with the small IN the canal Lyrics or some such. You just need an edge of amplification to hear the muffled speech and let your brain work it out.

The idea of word comprehension exercises is also excellent!!! I can not emphasize enough that even if a pair of aids is malfunctioning or not at peak performance, a person’s word comprehension can take a NOSE dive in a matter of months (as mine did several years ago).

Teaching is your profession, so invest in the tools to help you do the BEST job you can! You seem very proactive and have an open mind to trying just about anything. DO let us know what works out for you!

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As an audiologist, I highly recommend you get a second opinion and push for a hearing aid trial, or at least demos. I’d think you would benefit from hearing aids!

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@annaivanovacanada

Your loss is to great for an FM system or Phonak Roger Focus set up so you would need hearing aids to benefit from a FM system or Phonak Roger set up.

Phonak Roger Focus can only give up to 18 dB.

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You have Revers Slope Hearing Loss–RSHL This means that you don’t hear low frequencies so well. Search for RSHL in the search box on the upper right.
Those with RSHL don’t hear voiced linguals and labials well–‘n’ ‘m’. I can’t hear my cat purr. Hearing aids help, but RSHL is fairly rare, and many fitters don’t know how to fit for it. Getting hearing aids through a good audiologist is expensive–$5,000 or more.
Costco sells a hearing aid for under $2,000–the Philips HearLink 9030–that is supposed to be programmable for RSHL. I am trying them out. Unfortunately, Costco’s fitters are a mixed lot, and the results are less than I had hoped for. I am going the DIY route and programming them myself. We’ll see. I have a couple of months left of the six months to return them for full refund.
My loss–reverse cookie bite–is harder to fit than yours. It may be worth your while to check out Costco.

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You have my complete sympathy. As a college professor, I suffered from this for 25 years with progressively stronger hearing aids. When given an opportunity for early retirement at age 61 I jumped at it. I decided that it was unfair to the students to have to put up with my disability.

But you seem to be much younger and with a far milder hearing loss than I had/have. I definitely think you should consult another audiologist and probably try some hearing aids.

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I’m certainly not qualified to determine whether hearing aids will ultimately help you or not, but I would say that the most important factor is how you feel about your hearing. If you think you need help, then I would continue searching for a provider who is willing to better assist you. I have to imagine there is someone who will think you should at the very least, try out a demo or trial a pair to see if it helps you.

That said, as someone else also pointed out above, you have reverse slope loss, and have a very similar loss to my own, prior to my left ear getting worse with a bout of SSHL. I hadn’t had hearing aids prior to that event either. Historically, there have been some issues fitting people with reverse loss, so you may want to ask your provider if they have any experience with it. The following is a really good (and long) article about reverse slope loss, and I found it quite informative and educational, and hope it can be a resource for your to understand your hearing loss better as well!

The Bizarre World of Extreme Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss (or Low Frequency) Hearing Loss

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With all due respect, don’t forget that students benefit from the teacher’s insights, knowledge and inspiration. Cut y’self a lot of SLACK and pat yourself on the back for having added value to scores and scores of lives. Seriously!

Ironically, the online classes of the past 2 years would’ve worked better for teachers who could stream to the laptop for Zoom classes using some form of TV Connector. So … consider TUTORING! :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the suggestion, but I retired 19 years ago, so I’m pretty much out of the loop. I did teach a course to a small group in 2007, and again in 2011, but that was the last rodeo.

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Hey good for you then! I retired at 45 (riding that internet WAVE onto the beach and clear up to the top of the mountain!). LAST thing I ever wanted to do was go back to working for anyone. But being retired has its more solitary treasures: time to go walk DOGS at the local adoption center. :slight_smile:

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Anna (I hope I got that right), your situation rings many bells (audible even to me metaphorically) of recognition for me. I have several thoughts:

First, you didn’t say how old you are. I ask that because I’m surprised the hearing professional you saw recommended such a long interval before follow-up. I know that I denied my own hearing loss for quite some time, and although it’s been stable since I began wearing HAs, if the problem is limiting you, it deserves a second assessment either now or MJCH sooner than 5 years from now.

A few people have suggested you go to Costco. HAs certainly are MUCH less expensive there, but that’s true in the US. My best friend from college and med school has spent his entire career in academic medicine in Canada, to the point that eventually he renounced his American Citizenship, in part because of the sorry state of health care financing in the US. I don’t know whether some of the benefits of Costco pricing are available to you OR necessary for you in Canada, but one of those benefits in the US is that you can return purchased hearing aids for a full refund up to 6 months after purchase.

Sometimes, the discovery that you help comes in capricious revelations.For example, I’m a retired nephrologist, but when I started practice in California, the hospital where I worked required new medical staff to take in patients from the ED on a rotation basis. It was my luck to acquire one such patient, a woman with pneumonia. Asking her ALL the routine questions we ask people in a focused “review of systems” I queried her about the situations that made her short of breath. She said she first noticed it “walking up the hill from the aviary.” (Turns out she had Psittacosis, a relatively UNCOMMON cause of pneumonia that’s acquired from psittacine birds (Parrots and Parakeets). My diagnostic acumen creds with the ED staff jumped an order of magnitude because of that hill in her back yard.

One of the well known causes of kidney failure and hearing loss is an X-linked recessive genetic disorder named Alport’s Syndrome (there are actually a few different mutations that cause this but that’s not important right now). During my career I cared formany patients with this disorder, including a mother and and son. As is usually the case, the affected son developed kidney function AND hearing issues much earlier in life than his mom did, and by the time he was in his 20s he required dialysis treatments. Dialysis treatment centers are pretty noisy places, but when I’d see him on dialysis I needed to be quite close to him to review sensor readings from his machine and to examine him. We were directly face to face for conversations, and he was an excellent lip reader, so we both did OK.

He was lucky enough to get a transplant within a year or two of starting dialysis. Unfortunately for both of us, that occurred during the years of the explosive growth of the electronic medical records systems in the US because of economic stimulus funding from the Obama Administration. I’ve been a Mac nut since even before the 1984 Super Bowl commercial, but I absolutely DETESTED the early iterations of the EHR. They forced physicians to retreat behind flat screen monitors, impairing conversations with their patients even when neither of them had ANY hearing difficulties. My young transplant recipient’s first two office visits suffered hugely from that, but then during his third visit, suddenly it came to me that even though I was still hiding behind my monitor, he was ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS. He had obtained some hi-tech ReSOUND Bluetooth enabled hearing aids, and they had changed his life. The rest of that visit we forgot about his new kidney (which was doing fine) and he taught ME a whole lot about what his new HAs did for him. I made an appointment with a private practice audiologist and insisted I wanted the ReSOUND HAs. When they came, I really didn’t like them. The sound was MUCH too metallic; streamed sound (I’m a classical music buff) was just awful. I returned them and followed her initial recommendation for Phonak HAs, which were dramatically preferable (and the newest ones have even more features such as much easier pairing of your HAs to mobile phone, smart TVs, and desktop/laptop computers, etc.).

So much of hearing care in the US is influenced by how it’s financed, so I’d pay special attention to posts from people who fly the Maple Leaf on their posts, but if Costco in Canada offers the same “bennies” that it does here, I might go there next. I agree that the providers there are quite disparate in their abilities and training, however, so you need to consider that when you get advice or products. One suggestion would be to toss out acronyms when you’re being interviewed, such as WRT and RSHL and see if they spark light-bulb recognition by your provider (but not SO obnoxiously that they decide you’re a “know it all.” :sunglasses:

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I retired in '99 after 31 years of teaching in a high school. At about age 50 I noticed that it was getting more and more difficult to hear students speaking to me from the back of the classroom (like from over 30 feet away). In addition to getting hearing aids at that time, I also decided to eliminate “long distance” classroom conversations. So, when starting a class I would say “Please hold all of your questions until I finish my presentation, and then I will answer questions for you individually.” Then, during the next portion of the class when I had students start their homework, I would wander around the classroom and answer any questions that they might have (and keep everyone on task). This technique also helped with students being hesitant to raise their hand and announce to the entire class that they didn’t understand something! That change made classroom teaching much more workable for me until retirement, and I think the kids liked it better too.

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My problem is that masks remove exactly the frequencies I need the most help with, putting me back on a comprehension level to where I was 3 years ago before I got hearing aids.

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At a current cost of US $119, I wonder if those of us on fixed incomes could practice word recognition on their own using the “read-aloud” method one of my audiologists suggested. It would just take discipline. I read for pleasure so didn’t enjoy reading a book aloud, but there might be benefit to reading aloud (repetitively) a few paragraphs for 15 minutes a day. After a week, do it again with another paragraph. I might be able to make myself do that …

I am a teacher and totally empathise with your situation. I am living with the exact same problems and feel stressed all day because of it. My tutor class have learnt to raise their voices. One strategy I often use is to get kids to work in groups and then I get a volunteer to come to the front and write the feedback on the board. Also get them to write on individual whiteboards and various other tricks.

I got a KS10 from Costco. It helps a lot but it is important to realise that for some people (like me) the mask wearing is a huge impediment, which has not been fixed by wearing a hearing aid.

Agree with everyone who says go and try other audiologists. I tried half a dozen brands and providers until I ended up at Costco (thanks to this forum) and the cheapest price for a high quality aid. It is not worth me paying more as none of the aids were able to get my hearing back to normal (my loss is severe).

Fingers crossed we will not need the masks soon.

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