Jim Durkel Listen to Jim Durkel’s advice on the three things parents most need to know about listening skills.


Hi, I’m Jim Durkel. I’m an outreach teacher with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach Program. My first professions actually were as a speech-language pathologist and audiologist, and I worked so much with students that were deaf-blind, that I came to Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and joined the Outreach Program as a deaf-blind specialist, and while here, went on and got my training as a teacher for the visually impaired.

Jim, what are three things you want to ensure that parents know about listening skills?

The first thing I want parents to know is that it’s really important to assess the hearing of students with visual impairments on a regular basis. I would recommend even once a year. Many of the things that cause vision loss also cause hearing impairment, and I think it’s really important that we’re always checking to make sure that our students’ hearing is as good as it can be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a full evaluation, but we should have at least a screening every year on our students with visual impairments.

The second thing that I really want parents to know about is that hearing is a resource that really needs to be protected. There are students who are not visually impaired that are losing their hearing because they’re listening to loud music underneath headphones, and the loud level of the music is actually damaging the hearing. Because students with visual impairments often use headphones to access the computer, notetakers, other devices, we really want to make sure that the volume isn’t so loud that we’re actually damaging the hearing that our students have.

The third thing that I want parents to really know is that listening skills might happen on their own, but why take the chance that they might not. There are some people who are very gifted athletes. They can catch balls, throw balls, run very easily without any training, but most of us need some support to really learn how to use those skills, and I think listening is the same. All of us benefit from some real instruction on how to listen.