A-Z of Ethical Communication in Education: H is for Hear/ing.


To hear is to perceive vibrations in the ears as sounds made by people and things around us. 

Hearing is highly valued physically and figuratively.  Terms involving ‘hear’ and ‘hearing’ imply the ethical communication which is important in education.  We aim to ‘hear what people are saying’, and ‘hear them out’, giving them a chance to express their thoughts and valuing what they have said. 

 Hearing is a crucial sense for developing spoken language and communication skills.  Hearing loss can be in one or both ears and can occur at different frequencies meaning that some sounds in the environment and in speech are missed.  As the world is structured for hearing people those who are deaf can be significantly disabled without reasonable adjustments in place.  Unidentified deafness can lead to students withdrawing or acting out in lessons, leading to underachieving.  When I was called on to assess the language skills of a girl who was seriously falling behind in year 9 and beginning to opt out of lessons, it was discovered that she was profoundly deaf in one ear.  She mentioned that her sister had offered her one side of her earphones and the girl wanted to know if she was expected to hear in both ears.  After the school followed the advice from the Sensory Team about making reasonable adjustments in lessons the pupil rapidly caught up and started to contribute. 

Nevertheless, many hearing-impaired people celebrate deaf culture with the rich and complex language which is at its heart.  British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language are prime examples of these languages. 

The ability to hear enables young children to receive a model of what others around them are saying, hear their own speech sounds and gradually refine their speech until it is age appropriate for their native language.  However, deaf children too can develop language when in an environment where they can experience signing.  They are able to develop concepts, signed words, complex sentence structure and rich narrative, enabling them to achieve in school and in their future lives.  Ethical communication in education requires flexibility in responding to the needs of deaf students and valuing their means of communication. 

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