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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.

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 needs. Individuals will require various communication strategies according to their degree of hearing loss. The student's ability to communicate may 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, and closed captioning of any video material.
  • Students may require extra time to process language content. They may not hear what was said and may misunderstand the content. 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.
  • Provide preferential seating so students can see and hear most clearly. Students with hearing disabilities often depend on visual cues. 
  • Try and face the class when you are communicating. Often students with hearing disabilities rely on lip reading and other visual cues. 
  • If a sign language interpreter is present, situate yourself and the interpreter in the same sightline so students can see both you and the interpreter. Look directly at the student rather than the interpreter when speaking and responding to questions.
  • Supplement auditory presentations with a written transcript or captioning, visual images, demonstrations and concrete examples.
  • Ensure audio/visual presentations are available in captioned format, or provide details to the Student Accessibility Services office so we can have the audio portion transcribed for the student to review prior to and during class.
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