The major challenge facing students who are deaf or hard of hearing is communication. Students who are hard of hearing have residual hearing. To understand speech they may use speechreading, which alone only allows for about 30% understanding. Students who are deaf may or may not be able to hear any sounds at all. Therefore, because communication is difficult, students who are deaf or hard of hearing use other strategies to participate fully. Strategies include:
- Sitting in front of (or near the front of) the classroom
- Using hearing aids
- Using Assistive Listening Devices (ALD's). These are sound amplification systems (also called FM Listening Systems) that consist of a transmitter (worn by the professor) and a receiver (worn by the student). The transmitter sends the professor's voice to the receiver's system via FM signals, thereby improving the student's ability to hear the professor.
- Using interpreters. Many, but not all individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). In sign language, thoughts are expressed through a combination of hand and arm movements, positions, and gestures. The intensity and repetition of the movements and the facial expressions accompanying the movements are also important elements of sign language.
- Using note-takers. It can be difficult to follow and interpreter or speechread the instructor and take notes at the same time.
- Using computer-assisted real-time transcription (CART) services
Assumptions should not automatically be made about a 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 the music. Some students will have enough residual hearing so that amplification through earphones or hearing aids will allow participation. It is always best to discuss with the student the requirements of a class and to determine if there are ways that the materils can be modified so that the student can participate in what my become an exiting learning experience for all.
Tips for Instructors:
If you have questions or concerns about interpreters or students who are deaf or hard of hearing, please contact Linda Parker at the Student Disability Resource Center.