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Hearing is often a gift taken for granted. It’s important for students to be able to appreciate that gift and understand that not everyone can hear crystal clear sound. A hearing aid makes speech louder, but it doesn’t always make speech clearer.

Materials Needed

  • Foam ear plugs for each student
  • A radio or television
  • Reading material


Start by distributing ear plugs and asking students to apply their ear plugs. Turn on the television or radio to a channel that isn’t getting signal so that white noise is created. Take out your newspaper article or book and begin to read over the white noise. Once you’ve finished reading a small passage, you can instruct your students to remove their ear plugs and turn off the white noise. Ask the class a few questions about what you read and see if any of the students could hear what you read. You can then have a discussion about hearing impairment. How did it feel to not be able to hear clearly? How could you better communicate with someone who has a hearing impairment? Hopefully, the exercise will help your students better understand what it’s like to live with a hearing impairment.

Spotlight: Thomas Edison

Once you’ve had a discussion, take some time to cover achievements that have come from the hearing impaired community. One notable historical figure worth covering would be Thomas Edison, renowned by many as America’s greatest inventor. Thomas Edison is known for creating the first practical light bulb, the motion picture camera, and the phonograph. Thomas Edison was not deaf, but did have hearing loss that he said began as early as age 12. Edison credits his hearing loss for many of his inventions, claiming that lack of hearing helped him concentrate on his work. In 1927, Edison told a group of 300 adults with hearing impairments to “take to reading,” because he felt it was more beneficial than ordinary conversation anyway. The video above is part of an animated film that covers Edison’s struggle in inventing his light bulb.

Other notable individuals with hearing impairments include:

You can also use this exercise to teach some basic sign language. The video below covers the top 25 basic ASL signs for beginners.


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