Hearing Impairments / Deafness

Hearing impairments can range from mild hearing loss to total deafness.  More individuals in the United States have a hearing impairment than any other type of physical disability.  A hearing impairment is any type or degree of auditory impairment while deafness is a total loss of hearing.  Hearing loss is measured in decibels and may be mild, moderate or profound.  A person who is born with a hearing loss may have language deficiencies and exhibit poor vocabulary and syntax. 

People who are hearing impaired will oftentimes wear a hearing aid.  However, there is a large percentage that “read lips”.  Only 30%-40% of the spoken word is understood in these cases.  Students that lip read frequently miss class members’ comments and have difficulty understanding instructors who cover their lips, face the chalkboard, move around or wear a mustache.  Others may require a sign language interpreter.

Listed below are things to remember when teaching a student with a hearing impairment:

  • Keep your face within view of the student and speak in natural tones.  It is important to speak clearly, audibly, expressively and sometimes slower than normal; but do not yell, over pronounce or exaggerate.  During one on one communication, look directly at the person when speaking.
  • Provide a detailed syllabus, class outline and lecture outline to aid the student.  Provide the student with assignments in written form.
  • Provide seating in front of the classroom.
  • Use visual aids and the chalkboard to reinforce spoken presentations when possible.  The use of overheads and all types of visual aids provide better communication.
  • Provide note taker for class lectures.
  • Technical terms should be written on the chalkboard as they are introduced; initially, new words may be difficult to lip read and understand.  If possible, provide new vocabulary in advance.
  • Repeat questions that other students in the class ask.
  • Communicate with the student in writing when covering important information such as assignments, scheduling, deadlines, etc.
  • Student with a severe hearing impairment or those who are totally deaf may depend heavily on sign language.  The interpreter should be seated so that the impaired student has a clear unobstructed view.  The teacher should remember to speak directly to the student/s, not the interpreter.  The interpreter may be a distraction at first to the class, but soon the other students become used to his/her presence.
  • Circular seating arrangement is small discussion sessions will aid in lip reading.
  • Do not hesitate to ask the hearing impaired student to repeat statements until communication is complete.  Communication is the goal, methodology is secondary.  Sometimes it may be necessary to use pen and paper.
  • Try to reserve front row seats in a crowded classroom for hearing impaired students.
  • Provide Copies of PowerPoint slides given in advance.
  • Reduce excess noise as much as possible to facilitate better communication.  The hearing impaired that use hearing aids are very sensitive to room acoustics and background noises.
  • Students with moderate to severe losses may benefit from the use of FM Assisted Listening Devices.  If this is the case, clip the device on your clothing and try to remain within the broadcasting range (usually 20 to 40 feet).
  • Whenever possible use hands-on experience in training situations.  Like others, the hearing impaired person learns quickly by “doing”.
  • Do not leave doors ajar – keep them fully open or closed.
  • When equipment is to be used, explain the equipment and procedures verbally.