November 3, 2009 Feature

Professional Partners in the Schools

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists collaborate to help students with hearing loss

see also

Audiology and speech-language pathology are autonomous professions united in one discipline—communication sciences and disorders. Providing effective, evidence-based intervention for students with hearing loss is an invaluable way for members of the two professions to work together.

Hearing loss affects approximately 15% of students in the United States (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2008). Recent estimates suggest that there is at least one, and possibly as many as seven, students with some degree of hearing loss in every elementary classroom.

School personnel provide services to students with all degrees and types of hearing loss. Increased attention is being given to students with minimal hearing loss (16–25dB HL) because of its adverse affect on these students' ability to learn (DeConde Johnson, Benson, & Seaton, 1997; Northern & Downs, 2002).

Educational Audiologists' Role

Ideally, each school district throughout the country would have at least one full-time educational audiologist. An educational audiologist plays a critical role in designing and implementing evidence-based intervention to students with hearing loss.

In working with classroom teachers, special educators, administrators, and parents, the audiologist will:

  • Evaluate and describe the impact of hearing loss on the student's access to classroom instruction.
  • Determine the functional benefits of the student's classroom amplification system.
  • Plan and help implement classroom modifications and accommodations.
  • Discuss the educational impact of the student's hearing loss and hearing status with the student, teachers, and parents/caregivers.

Need for Collaboration

Unfortunately, many school systems do not have educational audiologists. In many cases, the school SLP is the professional who plans, implements, and directs programs for students with hearing loss. This situation—although challenging—creates opportunities for audiologists and SLPs to work together to enhance the educational experience of students with hearing loss.

SLPs in schools with no educational audiologist should take the critical step of contacting each student's audiologist to discuss the student's audiogram and its implications. The SLP will also want to invite the audiologist to the student's eligibility and/or Individualized Educational Program meetings to explain the nature and degree of the student's hearing loss, the educational impact of the hearing loss, and selection of appropriate listening devices and systems.

Collaboration with each student's individual audiologist—in the absence of a school audiologist—will help SLPs to:

  • Develop and implement hearing screening programs and daily checks of hearing aids and cochlear implant speech processors.
  • Evaluate accurately the cognitive and linguistic abilities of students with hearing loss.
  • Advocate for the appropriate educational placement of all students with hearing loss (with or without cognitive impairment).
  • Work closely with teachers to implement evidence-based educational strategies, including improved classroom acoustics, that optimize students' ability to learn.
  • Serve on effective interdisciplinary teams that focus on each student's educational progress.

Collaboration is a first step in providing services to students with hearing loss. SLPs, however, may be asked to do more—for example, become familiar with the student's assistive listening device and learn about the issues involved in each student's hearing loss, particularly for those who use a cochlear implant.

Audiologists can help school-based SLPs take on these additional roles. Affiliates in ASHA's audiology-based special interest divisions and audiology faculty (academic and clinical) at local universities can reach out to school-based SLPs. National and local professional meetings can include sessions to facilitate audiology and speech-language pathology collaboration in support of school-age children. Examples of creative and successful partnerships could be featured in The ASHA Leader, shared with ASHA's school staff and division Perspectives, and highlighted on the ASHA Web site.

Gina M. Gomez, AuD, CCC-A, associate coordinator for ASHA's Special Interest Division 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Children, is an audiologist with the Arlington (Va.) public schools. Contact her at

Lyn Goldberg, PhD, CCC-SLP, is the John and Ruby Hendren Distinguished Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University (Kansas). Contact her at

cite as: Gomez, G. M.  & Goldberg, L. (2009, November 03). Professional Partners in the Schools : Audiologists and speech-language pathologists collaborate to help students with hearing loss. The ASHA Leader.


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Byrd, R.S., & Auinger, P. (2002). Hearing loss among school-age children, unrecognized deficits and lower reading scores. Presentation to the American Academy of Pediatrics, retrieved on July 22 from

DeConde Johnson, C., Benson, P., & Seaton, J. (1997). Educational audiology handbook. San Diego, CA: Singular.

Edgar, D.L., & Rosa-Lugo, L.I. (2007). The critical shortage of speech-language pathologists in the public school setting: Features of the work environment that affect recruitment and retention. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 38, 31–46.

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Northern, J.L., & Downs, M.P. (2002). Hearing in children (5th edition). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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