The Hearing Support Team is part of the Sensory Impairment, Physical and Medical Service within the Special Educational Needs and Disability Service. We are a team of specialist staff, comprising qualified teachers of the deaf and teaching assistants working to promote the educational inclusion and achievement of children and young people with a diagnosed hearing loss.
What do we do?
We support children who are deaf or hard of hearing from the time of diagnosis to when they leave school.
The team works closely with families of pre-school children, helping them to understand the diagnosis, and then offering advice and support to develop communication strategies and language skills. We work with children in their local schools, early years' settings, or their homes across the county. Working closely with families, teachers, speech therapists and medical professionals means we can offer tailored and targeted support and advice aimed at helping children and young people achieve their potential. We provide specialist equipment within the educational settings and offer training on use of this equipment.
The level of support offered to each child and family is based on the child's needs in relation to their deafness, their stage of development and the knowledge and support that they have around them. We use nationally agreed criteria (Nat SIP) to inform this support.
Who is the service for?
We work with deaf and hard of hearing babies, children and young people both with and without additional special educational needs and disabilities. The service is available to support children with a diagnosed bilateral permanent hearing loss. This does not generally include children with temporary hearing problems such as glue ear but may include those with an ongoing temporary hearing loss that is likely to impact on a child or young person's education.
How can I start using the service?
Referrals to our team come from Health Services at the time of diagnosis. Therefore, if you have concerns regarding your child's hearing your first port of call should be your GP. If necessary, your GP will refer your child to specialist audiology services within your area who will then refer to our team as appropriate. As a parent or carer, you will be asked for consent for health services to contact a Teacher of the Deaf. The teacher offering support in your area will then contact you directly.
Diagnosis and referral
The Ear Nose and Throat (E NT) Surgeon or specialist paediatrician will give a diagnosis of your child's hearing loss and your child will be seen by an Audiologist. Depending on our service criteria, they will refer your child to our Service (with your consent). A qualified Teacher of the Deaf from the team will make contact as soon as possible with the family and school and an initial visit will be arranged within a half term (excluding school holidays).
The teacher will give information on what the hearing impairment diagnosis means and offer advice on how best to support your child. We will work closely with the audiology department and parents/carers in providing ongoing support to settings. The frequency of our visits will be agreed dependent upon the degree of hearing impairment and level of support needed.
All referrals to the Sensory Impairment Service are from hospital based medical professionals. Ophthalmologists, E NT specialists and Paediatricians diagnose the causes of the sensory loss and make referrals accordingly. Audiologists and Orthoptists make clinical assessments of the hearing or sight loss in the clinics and also make referrals based on these results. There are service referral forms available for the medical professionals to refer a child or young person with a Hearing and/or Visual Impairment. The forms include signed parental permission to share the medical information with the Advisory Teachers. The Advisory Teachers have strong links with the Audiology and Ophthalmology departments of our local hospitals and ensure that the medical professionals are aware of our referral criteria so that inappropriate referrals are not made. Referrals are also made to the service from specialist hospitals such as Moorfields or Great Ormond Street, as appropriate.
All referrals are received centrally to the service and checked for eligibility. If the criteria are met the referral is allocated to an Advisory Teacher. The referrer will be notified by letter of the outcome.
The Advisory Teacher will make contact with the school, or early years setting, to make an appointment and parents are informed. If the referral is for a baby or child not yet at pre-school the Advisory Teacher will visit the home.
Once a child has been referred and accepted as an appropriate referral, an initial assessment will be carried out and a written report produced. Support is determined by the Nat SIP (National Sensory Impairment Partnership) eligibility criteria which gives a score and a support pattern.
A child or young person with a suspected hearing loss should be taken to the GP in the first instance and if appropriate a referral will be made to the Audiology clinic at the local hospital.
The British Society of Audiology descriptors have been adopted for hearing loss. These descriptors are based on the average hearing threshold levels at 250, 500, 1000, 2000 and 4000Hz in the better ear where no response is taken to have a value of 130 dBHL
Mild hearing loss
Unaided threshold 21-40 dBHL
Moderate hearing loss
Unaided threshold 41-70 dBHL
Severe hearing loss
Unaided threshold 71-95 dBHL
Profound hearing loss
Unaided threshold in excess of 95 dBHL
Hearing loss must be assessed by a qualified audiologist
The following meet the criteria for referral to the service:
All children and young people diagnosed with a sensorineural moderate, severe or profound hearing loss, in accordance with the British Society of Audiology descriptors, meet the criteria for referral for their hearing impairment.
The following meet the criteria for referral to the service, but may not be placed on the regular caseload, and may receive written advice, a 'one off' or 'on request' visits:
- Mild/moderate permanent conductive hearing impairment
- Mild/moderate long term aided conductive hearing impairment including those with glue ear aged 7 or over.
- Permanent or long term conductive hearing impairment where the child has a significant additional need.
- Aided mild sensorineural hearing impairment
- Unilateral hearing loss; a one-off visit or information sheet may be provided.
The following do not meet the criteria for referral:
Conductive hearing impairment which is judged to be temporary (glue ear in under 7s)
In all cases referrals must be accompanied by a form giving signed parental permission.
Links with Audiology
The Audiologists will gradually get a more detailed picture of your child's hearing loss. Hearing aids, if prescribed, will be programmed especially for your child. These appointments will generally take place at St Martins Hospital in Bath, Salisbury Hospital or The Great Western Hospital in Swindon, depending on where you live.
If your child's hearing loss is profound, your child may be offered assessment for cochlear implants (CI). The closest cochlear implant teams are based in Southampton, Bristol and Oxford.
Our team will liaise closely with the audiologists and can accompany you to Audiology appointments where helpful.
School Age Support
The most appropriate choice of school for your child will depend, amongst other factors, on the degree and implications of your child's hearing loss.
Most deaf children attend their local mainstream school or special school (depending on their needs) with support from a TOD.
In a mainstream school our team can:
- Give training to the staff in your child's setting if required.
- Provide support throughout school.
- Monitor your child's progress and give advice on areas where he/she may not be achieving at the appropriate level.
- Visit your child depending on hearing loss/need.
- Ensure that the hearing aid equipment is in good order.
- Work with the class teacher/SENCo to devise new targets.
- Discuss any social issues which you or your child may be concerned about. We can provide training to deaf pupil's peers on deaf awareness and effective communication if required.
- Encourage your child to become competent in caring for his/her hearing aid equipment and to be an independent learner.
- Provide and maintain specialist equipment required such as Radio Aids
- Give advice on special arrangements for internal and external examinations and assessments.
- Offer deaf awareness training to children, families, schools and other related professionals.
- Give advice on good acoustic environments for hearing aid users.
If assessment shows that your child requires a higher level of support to access the curriculum there are specialist primary and secondary resource bases in Wiltshire which specifically support the needs of hearing-impaired pupils. These are based within mainstream schools.
You can find further information for parents/carers and professionals on the teams Right Choice page.
Specialist resource bases
Primary Resource Base
Sarum St Paul's CofE (VA) Primary School, Salisbury
Secondary Resource Base
Sheldon School, Chippenham (Secondary): SEND
If your child's needs cannot be met within a mainstream school or a specialist resource base then, following assessment and agreement, it may be necessary to consider a specialist placement.