Adult Learner

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We typically learn to understand many new concepts and skills through what we hear, but also what we can touch, see, and manipulate. Adults with hearing loss may have had life-long hearing loss or may have more recently developed progressive hearing loss, often due to age-related physical decline or noise exposure over their lifetime. For adults with hearing loss and/or processing difficulties, learning new skills or content can be more difficult if they do not have the appropriate support.

Main Ideas

Hearing is measured as the ability to hear sounds in the typical human range of approximately 20 - 20,000 Hz. Hearing loss typically impacts high frequency speech sounds (e.g., /sh/, /s/, /f/, /th/) more than other frequencies. It is important to recognize the variability among adults with hearing loss, and how hearing loss can differentially impact these individuals. Additionally, hearing aids and cochlear implants do not always completely restore hearing or support full language comprehension.

  • Adults who have life-long hearing loss may use a signed and/or a spoken language, and often have clear communication preferences. Adults with life-long hearing loss are likely to have hearing parents, as 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. Research shows that deaf children of hearing parents can often suffer language deprivation as a result of delayed language exposure. These individuals may have lasting difficulties in areas like critical thinking, language skills, writing skills, and social awareness. Adults with life-long hearing loss are less likely to pursue post-secondary education.
  • Adults with progressive hearing loss face new challenges in learning, as their typical learning experiences may change with hearing loss. They may also experience increased anxiety and frustration with the newfound struggles to hear and communicate in certain situations. Adults with progressive hearing loss often have less experience with advocating and seeking supports for their hearing loss.

Another aspect of Hearing is Auditory Processing disorder. Adults with Auditory Processing difficulties may not have disordered Hearing that is impacted in the frequency ranges, but rather, struggle to understand the content and context of spoken language. This is due to a disconnect in their neural processing that can be caused by a myriad of factors that impact the brain, from premature birth to traumatic brain injuries.

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