Deaf or hard of hearing

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"Sometimes I hear all of a conversation and other times only part of it. Yet, people think I'm not paying attention. While walking down the street, someone calls me from the corner. When I don't respond, she thinks I'm unfriendly. I ask someone for directions, but can't see his lips because the sun is in my eyes. When I can't follow what he is saying, he walks away and thinks I'm stupid."

(Excerpted from an essay on what it is like to have hearing impairment, written by a student who is moderately hard of hearing.)


There are three terms that we have all heard and sometimes confuse. The generic term Hearing Impairment is a word used to describe all types of hearing defects, ranging from a minute loss to profound deafness. Hearing impairment is the most prevalent chronic physical disability in the United States with over 13 million individuals being affected. More specifically, Hard of Hearing is a condition where hearing is defective to varying degrees (usually a hearing aid can enhance the understanding of speech). Deaf/Deafness is a condition in which perceivable sounds have no meaning for ordinary life purposes (hearing aids enhance awareness of vibrations such as horns and sirens, but not speech.)

Title 5 lists Hearing Impairments under the heading of Communication Disability. Hearing impairment means a total or partial loss of hearing function which impedes the communication process essential to language, educational, social and/or cultural interactions.

Suggestions for helping students who are deaf or hard of hearing in your classroom


Lighting is very important when communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing. Do not stand in front of a window or bright light when talking. Try to talk where there is adequate, well distributed light.

Be sure to face them when talking. Speak slowly and do not over exaggerate your lip movements.

Keep your hands away from your face. Facial activities such as cigarette smoking, vigorous gum chewing, or biting your lips prevent clear communication.

Using facial expressions, gestures, and other "body language" is helpful in conveying your message.

Be aware that individuals who can hear make the best lip readers, (also call "speech readers"). Of individuals who had extensive training in lip reading, hard-of-hearing students can understand up to 50 percent of speech, and deaf students can understand only up to 25 percent. It takes a great deal of concentration to lip read.

If you see a student with a hearing aid, this does not mean that the student can understand verbal language. The student may require an alternative form of communication, (i.e., an ASL Interpreter, note taker, or use of other hearing aid devices.)

When using an ASL Interpreter to communicate with a student, address the student directly saying "How are you today?"

Many students who are hard-of-hearing do not hear tone of voice, therefore, some expressions, such as sarcastic statements, might be misleading if taken literally. Try to avoid giving misleading information this way. Also, try to avoid using idioms or colloquial expressions.

Since conversation is two-way street, receiving messages is as important as sending them. Do not hesitate to ask the individual to slow down or repeat when you do not fully understand.

Understand that occasionally the student might have to ask you to restate what you said to make sure he or she completely understands you. Rephrase what you have said, rather than repeating the same words again.

Use open ended questions which need more than a "yes" or "no" answer. Do not assume that the person who is deaf understands if they nod their head. Open ended questions assure that your information has been communicated.

Faculty members should not hesitate to write notes when necessary to communicate with a student. Remember to keep the notes simple and direct.


A student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing depends on visual cues to supplement what he or she does not hear. Seating is an important consideration. The student will need to be near the front so that his or her view is not obstructed.

If a student has a unilateral hearing loss, he or she should be seated so that maximum use of the good ear is permitted.


Because of a time lag between the spoken word and the interpretation, the student's contribution to the lecture or discussion may be slightly delayed.

Students may have some speech and/or language impairments. Although this does not affect a student's ability to learn new information, some difficulty in the acquisition of new vocabulary may lead to reluctance to participate in class.

Assumptions should not automatically be made about the student's ability to participate in certain types of classes. For example, students may be able to learn a great deal about music styles, techniques, and rhythms by observing a visual display of the music on an oscilloscope or similar apparatus or by feeling the vibrations of music.


Most students will be able to take tests and evaluations in the same way as other students. Some may need additional time in order to gain a full understanding of the test questions.

It has been found that if the test is written, some students do better if an ASL Interpreter reads and translates the questions to the student in sign language. However, many other students prefer to read tests themselves. If the method of evaluation is oral, the ASL Interpreter can serve as the reverse ASL Interpreter for the student.

Avoid oral administrated exams requiring written answers.

The primary form of communication with the deaf community is sign language. In view of this, many persons who are deaf or have profound hearing loss since birth or an early age have not mastered the grammatical subtleties of their "second language" English. This does not mean that instructors should overlook errors in written (or spoken) work. However, they should know that this difficulty with English is not related to intelligence but is similar to that experienced by students whose native language is other than English.

ASL interpreters

Some of the students will attend classes with an oral or sign language interpreter. The ASL Interpreters will usually situate themselves in front of the class to interpret lectures and discussions.

Interpretation will be easiest in lecture classes and more difficult in seminar or discussion classes. Because class formats are so varied, it is recommended that the professor, ASL Interpreter, and student arrange a conference early in the course to discuss any special arrangements that may be needed.

Please be aware of the difficulties the student may have trying to watch a film and the ASL Interpreter at the same time.

An ASL Interpreter's proficiency level decreases after 20 minutes. You can help make sure that the student is receiving clear and concise transmission by allowing breaks for any class over 50 minutes.


Note taking Services: It often helps to have another student or students, who are good note takers, carbon or copy notes so that a student with a hearing impairment can give his or her full attention to watching the speaker or ASL Interpreter. Special note taking paper is available from DSS in SSC 248.

ASL Interpreters: Sign language interpreters are provided by Disability Support Services upon request from the student. Not all hearing impaired students request or use ASL Interpreters.

Sennheiser FM System is available in the Media Center (use by student must be approved by DSS counselors). Sennheiseris a system of amplifying sound to the student through a small microphone and transmitter the speaker (instructor) wears and a receiver worn by the student. The Sennheiseris blocks out background noise in the classroom making it easier for the student to hear what the instructor is saying. It amplifies sound only for the student using the piece of equipment, not for others in the classroom.

Sennheiser Infrared System:This assistive listening system is designed for students who are Hard-of-Hearing. This system consist of an infrared emitter permanently connected to the theater sound system and infrared receivers which can be checked out from the Media Center. It is available in the Forum, the Performing Arts Building, and the Arena Theater.

Sorenson (SVR) is a web base video relay system.  Available in DSS office during office hours, campus public telephones are in the Library.