Lesson 05: Hearing

Serving Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course


The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the issues and strategies related specifically to working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

By considering and discussing the ACCESS ISSUES in a case study reading, you will develop an awareness of additional strategies and accommodations.

Question to reflect upon while reading the content

What challenges might students who are deaf or hard of hearing face in your department or office? What accommodations might they require?


The term "hearing impairment" refers to functional hearing loss that ranges from mild to profound. Often, people who have no functional hearing refer to themselves as "DEAF." Those with milder hearing loss refer to themselves as "HARD OF HEARING." Accommodations for students who are deaf or hard of hearing can be classified as VISUAL and AURAL. Visual accommodations rely on a person's sight; aural accommodations rely on a person's hearing abilities. Examples of visual accommodations include sign language interpreters, lip reading, and captioning. Examples of aural accommodations include amplification devices such as FM systems.

Hard of Hearing

Some students who are hard of hearing may hear only specific frequencies or sounds within a certain volume range. They may rely heavily on hearing aids and lip reading. Some students who are hard of hearing may never learn, or may only occasionally use, sign language. A student who is hard of hearing may have a speech impairment because of the inability to hear his own voice clearly.

Students can be affected by hearing impairments in several ways. They may have difficulty FOLLOWING CONVERSATIONS in noisy or crowded areas, particularly if the acoustics cause echoes or if the speaker talks quietly, rapidly, or unclearly. People who have hearing impairments may find it difficult to SIMULTANEOUSLY WATCH demonstrations and FOLLOW VERBAL DESCRIPTIONS, particularly if they are watching a sign language interpreter, a captioning screen, or a speaker's lips.


A student who is deaf may have little or no speech, depending on the severity of the hearing loss and the age of onset. She will often communicate through a sign language interpreter.

Accommodations for Students Who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf

Examples of accommodations for students who have hearing impairments include the following:

  • Interpreters
  • Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), sound amplification systems
  • Note takers
  • Electronic mail
  • Visual warning systems for emergencies
  • Flashes or contrast changes for computer auditory signals

Hearing impairments do not interfere with the physical aspects of writing. However, students who use American Sign Language may have POOR GRAMMAR because of differences between English and American Sign Language; English is considered a second language for many individuals who are deaf and use sign language. This may affect students' ability to complete forms in your office.


HEARING IMPAIRMENTS make it difficult or impossible to hear conversations, access multimedia materials, and participate in discussions. It is important to remember that a student who is using an interpreter or who is lip-reading will have DIFFICULTY looking at another resource at the same time. Completing forms may also be a challenge.

Flexibility and effective communication between YOU, the STUDENT, and the DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE are key in approaching accommodations. With this basic knowledge you will be better prepared to ask students who are deaf or hard of hearing to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests.

Question for Discussion

After reading the following case study, SEND an email message to the group suggesting strategies and accommodations to the ACCESS ISSUE questions.

Your email SUBJECT line should read: Access 5: HEARING.

My name is Michael and I am a graduate student in Rehabilitation Counseling at San Diego State University. I have a severe-profound, bilateral hearing loss and use hearing aids and speech reading (watching the movement of a person's lips) to maximize my communication abilities. I have some knowledge of American Sign Language but not enough to effectively use a sign language interpreter as an accommodation.

Describe how you might work with Michael in order to maximize his access to materials and services in your office.

Further Information

You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case studies, and access additional resources at The Conference Room, https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities.

(c) 2004 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at 1-206-685-3648 or doit@u.washington.edu.