Hearing Impairments Academic Impact

  • Given the close relationship between oral language and hearing, students with hearing loss might also have speech impairments. One's age at the time of the loss determines whether one is prelingually deaf (hearing loss before oral language acquisition) or adventitiously or postlingually deaf (hearing loss after oral language acquisition). Those born deaf or who become deaf as very young children might have more limited speech development.
  • Students with a hearing loss might have speech impairments due to the close relationship between oral language and hearing.
  • Intelligence and the physical ability to produce sounds are not affected due to the inability to hear and process language quickly.
  • Some students who are deaf are skilled lip readers, but many are not. Many speech sounds have identical mouth movements which can make lip-reading particularly difficult. For example "p," "b," and "m" look exactly alike on the lips, and many sounds (vowels, for instance) are produced without using clearly differentiated lip movements.
  • Make sure you have the visual attention of a student who is deaf before speaking directly to him/her. A light touch on the shoulder, a wave, or other visual signal may be helpful.
  • Look directly at a person with a hearing loss during a conversation, even when an interpreter is present. Speak clearly, without shouting. If you have problems being understood, rephrase your thoughts. Writing is also a good way to clarify.
  • Make sure that your face is clearly visible. Keep your hands away from your face and mouth while speaking. Sitting with your back to a window, gum chewing, pencil biting, and similar obstructions of the lips can also interfere with the effectiveness of communication.

Two common accommodations or services that individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf use are Sign Language Interpreting and Captioning (CART):

  • Sign Language Interpreting: An interpreter facilitates communication between a deaf or hard of hearing individual and a hearing individual. Their role is similar to a foreign language translator, who bridges the communication gap between two parties. Interpreters assist deaf or hard of hearing people with understanding communication not received aurally. Interpreters also assist hearing people with understanding messages communicated by deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Sign language interpreters use language and finger spelling skills; oral interpreters silently form words on their lips for speech reading. Interpreters will interpret all information in a given situation and also be the voice of deaf people, if requested. Sign Language Interpreters may sign in American Sign Language (ASL), Pidgin Signed English (PSE), Signed Exact English (SEE), or Conceptually Accurate Signed English (CASE), depending upon the need of the student.
  • Captioning (CART): All spoken communication in the classroom is manually transcribed by a captionist, typically using a computer. With minimal delay, information is transmitted by the captionist to the student's computer or a monitor where the student then reads the transcript. The information can also be displayed on a video monitor, printed out as a rough transcript, captured on a floppy disk, or printed in Braille.

Not all students with hearing impairments are fluent users of all of the communication modes used across the deaf community, just as users of spoken language are not fluent in all oral languages. For example, not all students who are deaf can read lips. Many use sign language-but there are several types of sign language systems. American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural, visual language having its own syntax and grammatical structure. Signed Exact English (SEE) is a manual system which utilizes English syntax and grammar. Fingerspelling is the use of the manual alphabet to form words. Pidgin Sign English (PSE) combines aspects of ASL and English and is used in educational situations often combined with speech. Nearly every spoken language has an accompanying sign language.

In addition to sign language and lip-reading, students who are deaf also use oral language interpreters. These are professionals who assist persons who are deaf or hard of hearing with understanding oral communication. Sign language interpreters use highly developed language and Fingerspelling skills; oral interpreters silently form words on their lips for speech reading. Interpreters also use voice, when requested. Interpreters will attempt to interpret all information in a given situation, including instructors' comments, class discussion, and pertinent environmental sounds.