What is Hearing Impairment?
Hearing impairment is a broad term that encompasses varying degrees of hearing loss from hard-of-hearing to total deafness. Students with hearing impairments vary greatly in their communication skills due to their personality types, nature and degree of deafness, degree of benefit from a hearing device, family environment and age of onset. Age of onset can severely effect the level of the student’s disability.
Due to the fact that so much of learning is acquired aurally, many students may have experiential as well as language deficiencies. Although students can overcome some of these problems through the investment of a great deal of time and energy, along with a supportive family and educators, such deficiencies are still common among the hearing impaired.
Not all deaf students are fluent users of the same modes of communication. For example, not all deaf students lip-read; many use sign language. However, there are several types of sign language systems used. (I.e. American Sign Language: ASL, or Pidgin Sign English: PSE) However, these are not the only types of communication available to deaf students. They also can use sign and oral language interpreters. These are professionals who assist deaf or hard of hearing students understand communications. They also assist hearing persons with understanding messages communicated by a hearing impaired student. Interpreters also voice when requested what the student says, as well as interpret all information in a given situation including instructor comments, class discussion, and environmental sounds.
The interpreter and the hearing impaired student usually sit in the front of the classroom. Initially
sign language may be a distraction to the class and the professor, however the initial curiosity of the class will fade and the professor will be able to adapt to the interpreter’s presence.
Students with hearing impairments use notetakers because it is difficult to follow an interpreter and take notes at the same time. Interpreters and notetakers should introduce themselves to the professor at the beginning of the term in order to make any special arrangements necessary.
Real-time Captioning is another option available to hearing impaired students. A Real-time Captionist is a stenographer who uses a steno-machine to take down the lecture verbatim. The words of the lecture are made immediately available to the student on a laptop computer. The student will simply read the lecture as it is presented and will receive a copy on disk of the lecture to use as a study reference.
Most hearing impaired students can be evaluated the same as other students on tests. However, it has been found that some deaf students do better on exams when an interpreter signs the instructions to them.
How can the professor help?
- Make certain you have a deaf student’s attention when speaking to them. A light touch of the shoulder, a wave, or other visual signal may help.
- Repeat the comments and questions of other students so the student with the hearing impairment and/or the interpreter is sure to understand what has been said.
- When appropriate, ask for a hearing volunteer to team up with a deaf or hard-of-hearing student for in-class assignments.
- If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
Face the class when speaking; if an interpreter is present, make sure the student can see both you and the interpreter.
- If there is a break in the class, get the deaf or hard of hearing student’s attention before resuming class.
- Because visual information is a deaf student’s primary means of receiving information, films, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful instructional tools.
- When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her.
- Be flexible; allow a deaf student to work with audio-visual material independently and for a longer period of time.
- Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (I.e. avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class.)