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Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Overview and Definition

Persons who are hard of hearing have hearing losses ranging from mild to profound. These students experience difficulty hearing and may wear a hearing aid to amplify sound. A hearing aid does not cure the loss, but assists in better communication. Through amplification, many students who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to hear at an acceptable level.

A deaf person has a profound hearing loss in which there has been damage to the auditory pathway. Most people use some form of sign language to communicate. The earlier the loss, the more serious are the implications for a student's education. Students who have acquired American Sign Language (ASL) consider it their first language and it is unlikely that they have a complete command of English, which would be considered their second language. It is important to note that their grasp of the English language is not a reflection of intelligence, but is a reflection of their command of the second language due to their inability to hear.

Deafened is both a medical and sociological term referring to persons who have become deaf later in life. Deafened persons cannot hear what you say, but usually respond verbally in a conversation. They sometimes use interpreters.

Personal hearing aids and assistive listening devices, using a radio link between instructor and student, in many cases enable the student to participate in the classroom without the help of an interpreter or aide.

What are the educational challenges for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing?

Because exposure to verbal communication is limited for students who are deaf/hard of hearing, even those with superior intelligence and abilities are at a great disadvantage in acquiring language skills. English, being a phonological language, is often a second language to sign language, a visual language, for students who are hearing impaired.  

Through amplification, many students who are deaf/hard of hearing are able to hear at an acceptable level. Personal hearing aids and assistive listening devices, using a radio link between instructor and student, in many cases enable the student to participate in the classroom without the help of an interpreter or aide.    

What should the professor know?

A student who is deaf/hard of hearing may use a combination of techniques to comprehend what is spoken in class. They may use sound amplification, lip reading and/or sign language interpreting

  • If an interpreter or other aide is present, look at the student when speaking rather than the aide.
  • If a student is lip-reading, be sure that the student is able to clearly see from his/her seat.
  • Providing the student with a copy of lecture notes may help the student to better follow the lecture. A notetaker in class may also be helpful.
  • If an assistive listening device is utilized, the instructor will wear a small wireless microphone on the lapel. The student will demonstrate its use to the instructor.

Discuss the preferred method of accommodation with the student. The student will be able to suggest the best methods for individual learning success.    

What should the student know?

  • An initial planning session with the Director of Disability Services and Academic Support will assist in planning proper accommodations for a student who is deaf/hard of hearing. After review of proper documentation of the disability, the student and these professionals can develop a strategy, using the student's preferences in accommodations, to ensure the success of the student.
  • Writing Workshop may be able to offer assistance to students in need of improving their written language skills.
  • A note-taker can free the student to more closely follow visually without the distraction of taking notes.
  • Visual fire alarms will be installed in the dormitory room of a student who is deaf/hard of hearing to aid in evacuation in case of an emergency.

Possible Academic Accommodations

  • Priority seating for students and their interpreters.
  • Notetakers
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half).
  • Access to an interpreter during tests and exams, to interpret questions.
  • Access to assistive devices such as FM systems, TTY
  • A writing tutor may be able to offer assistance to students in need of improving their written language skills.