An estimated 3 million children in America have a hearing impairment, according to the Center for Hearing and Communication. Although some children are born with hearing impairments, noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Use activities to teach children hearing impairment awareness so that they have a better understanding of what life is like for peers with hearing loss and also, so that they learn how to avoid experiencing noise-induced hearing loss by taking safety precautions.
Learning About Hearing Impairments
Help children understand the different causes of hearing impairments with a collage activity. Provide children with magazines, print-outs and other illustrated materials from which they may cut. After a brief discussion about hearing loss, encourage kids to cut and paste pictures representing the types and causes discussed onto a large piece of poster board. Some examples are a swimmer, which represents conductive hearing loss from water in the ear; a baby, representing at-birth hearing impairments; a sick person, representing illness and a radio, which represents exposure to noise.
Understanding Hearing Loss
Engage children in activities that show them what it’s like to live with a hearing impairment. Play charades to foster an understanding of what it’s like to attempt to understand what others are communicating without the benefit of hearing. Pair kids up and give each pair a thick cloth, such as a clean dishtowel or washcloth. Have one child hold the cloth against their mouth and say something to his partner, who has to try and interpret the muffled words. Challenge children to attempt to read each other’s lips, and teach them a few sign language gestures to enable them to communicate with hearing-impaired peers.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Activities
Help young children grasp the concept of decibel levels with a demonstrative activity. Place a radio face-up on a table and cover the speaker with a piece of wax paper. Place a pinch of coarse, kosher salt on the paper, and turn the radio on. Have children take turns adjusting the volume and tuning to different stations. As the volume levels change, the vibrations will cause the salt to bounce at different intensities. Encourage kids to observe how the softer sounds, which have a lower decibel output, do not affect the salt as drastically as the louder sounds, which have a higher decibel output. During the activity, engage kids in a conversation about how exposure to high-decibel sounds causes hearing loss when intense vibrations from sound damage the sensitive hairs in the ear that enable hearing.
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when a person is exposed to sounds above 85 decibels. To help children avoid exposure to harmful noise levels, create a decibel thermometer chart together as a group, showing the differences between safe and harmful noise levels. Draw a thermometer on a large piece of poster board, and mark the thermometer with decibel levels ranging from zero to 165. Color the section between 0 and 75 green, the section between 85 and 105 orange, and the section between 105 and 165 red. Using a decibel chart as reference, encourage the kid to think of things that make different noise intensities, such as a jet engine -- which is around 135 decibels -- and an MP3 player with headphones, which is about 100 decibels, and place them in the appropriate spot on the thermometer. Another idea is to supply kids with ear plugs and have them make a pocket list of places they should wear them -- such as music concerts or during a fireworks display -- for quick reference. Laminate the pocket lists for safekeeping.