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Hearing disabilities

The term deaf is used to refer to the medical/audiological condition of having severe to profound hearing loss, with little or no residual hearing. Other terms:

  • Deaf (with the capital D) refers to individuals who identify themselves as Deaf and mostly communicate through American Sign Language, which is a language with its own grammatical structure.
  • An individual who is hard of hearing is generally a person who uses residual hearing and some speech to communicate. Generally, these individuals supplement their residual hearing with speech reading, hearing aids and/or other supports.
  • Deafened or late-deafened generally describes individuals who grow up hearing or hard of hearing and suddenly experienced a gradual profound loss of hearing. Consequently, late-deafened adults usually cannot understand speech without visual clues such as print interpretation, speech reading or sign language.

How can Student Accessibility Services (SAS)  staff provide support?

Hearing loss is individual. The most effective way to determine how hearing loss affects an individual is to talk with him/her about his/her personal circumstance. Individual needs will vary according to the degree of the hearing loss. Individuals may require various communication strategies. The degree of communication ability can also be affected by the availability and suitability of technical devices as well as the environmental and program demands.

It is important to find the most suitable accommodation so students do not miss lecture and discussion materials that are delivered orally.

What can teaching staff do to offer assistance?

  • Support students in obtaining lecture material in print whether through Blackboard, copies of faculty lecture notes, handouts and/or tape recorded lectures, closed captioning of any video material.
  • Students may require extra time to process language content. They may not understand what was said or may understand the content differently than others. It is helpful to repeat answers or discussions given by other students in the class for students with hearing disabilities. Reinforce the main idea and review key concepts frequently to ensure they are understood.
  • When communicating with students, remember that slang, colloquialisms and uncommon language may have little or no meaning to a person with a hearing disability.
  • Provide preferential seating to give students the best access to communication and the most visibly accessible place in group/interactive format.
  • Students with hearing difficulties often depend on visual cues. It is vital to use the appropriate body language for effective communication.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements during lectures for students who are easily distracted, taping the lecture or are speech reading. If you talk while you are writing on the board, make sure that you restate this information once you turn around.
  • If a sign language interpreter is used, situate yourself and the interpreter along one sightline so students who are deaf can follow any actions. Look directly at the student rather than the interpreter when speaking and responding to questions.
  • Supplement auditory presentation with written information, visual images, demonstrations and concrete examples or personal anecdotes when possible.
  • Ensure audio/visual presentations are also available in captioned format, or provide details to the Student Accessibility Services office so we can have the audio portion transcribed into print for student review prior to and during class.
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