I have said it before and I’ll say it again…EVERY child can and should learn music. I never want any student to feel like they can’t learn music because of a disability. In this blog post, I want to give you ideas for how to teach music to the hearing impaired child. Some of the most gifted musicians have had a hearing impairment, but they did not let that hinder them.
Famous Musicians with Hearing Impairments
One of my all time favorite composers is Ludwig van Beethoven. He started losing his hearing in his 20’s, yet went on to compose some of the most famous piano and orchestra works of all time. He would lay on the floor next to the piano while composing some of his pieces to feel the vibrations from the keys. Chris Martin of “Coldplay” has struggled with tinnitus for 10 years, yet has gone on to have a successful career as a lead singer for one of the most famous bands of today. Will.i.am of “The Black Eyed Peas” has said that every time there is silence, it causes a ringing in his ears, which makes him want to keep on creating music.
Every Hearing Impairment is Different
There will be a wide array hearing impairments. You may have student’s who are completely deaf and need a sign language interpreter and student’s who have only slight hearing loss and need hearing aids or have chochlear implants. Understanding the needs of the child with the hearing impairment is the first step in knowing how to best go about teaching them music. Children with a hearing impairment want you to know them just like any other student and want to learn music. It is our job as their music teacher to get to know them and how we can best help them learn.
How to Teach
Children with a hearing impairment can develop a strong sense of rhythm by using body percussion to learn popular songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Using clapping, stomping, snapping, and patting, children can sway and march to the beat or the rhythms that they memorized by echo learning. More advanced music student’s can learn songs by reading the score just like any other piano or orchestra student. They may not be able to hear what they are playing if they are completely deaf, but they can feel the vibrations by taking their shoes off. While learning a song, deaf children will have a sign language interpreter with them most of the time. If the child is not comfortable or is unable to sing the song, they can sign the words and participate by playing an instrument part or doing the motions.
Involve the Other Student’s
One of my favorite things to do was to take a simple song and teach the sign language to it. In music, we are constantly learning music from other countries and cultures, yet learning to sign is just as important. For a child with a hearing impairment, having their classmates make an effort to sign a song with them, will make them feel like they are part of the group and included. Have one of the student’s sit next to the child with the hearing impairment so they can be a leader while playing a rhythm on the rhythm sticks, or while doing the motions to a song.
Do you have a child at home or in your class with a hearing impairment? What are your favorite ways to teach music to these children?