Teaching Strategies for Hearing Impaired Students


There is a range of inclusive teaching strategies that can assist all students to learn but there are some specific strategies that are useful in teaching a group which includes students with hearing impairments. In considering alternative forms of assessment, equal opportunity, not a guaranteed outcome, is the objective. You are not expected to lower standards to accommodate students with a disability, but rather are required to give them a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.

First Day

  • Include a statement in your course syllabus regarding accommodation issues for students with disabilities. See the Suggested Disability Statement for course syllabi.
  • Invite students to self-identify on the first day of class by making a public statement such as: "Please contact me to discuss disability accommodations."

Lectures and Other Teaching Sessions

  • Keep instructions brief and uncomplicated as much as possible. When repeating instructions, repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g., chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Make instructional on-line course materials available in text form. For that material which is graphical in nature, create text-based descriptions of material.
  • Repeat the comments and questions of other students, especially those from the back rows. Acknowledge who has made the comment so students who are deaf or hard of hearing can focus on the speaker.
  • When appropriate, ask for a hearing volunteer to team up with a student who is deaf or hard of hearing for in-class assignments.
  • If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
  • Allow several moments extra for oral responses in class discussions.
  • In small group discussions, allow for participation by students with hearing impairments.
  • Face the class while 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 attention of the student who is deaf or hard of hearing before resuming class.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing often use vision as a primary means of receiving information. Captioned videos, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful instructional tools for students with hearing impairments.
  • Be flexible: allow a student who is deaf to work with audiovisual material independently and for a longer period of time.
  • Assist the student with finding an effective notetaker from the class.
  • Provide hand-outs (preferably electronically) in advance of lectures and seminars.
  • Ensure key notices e.g. regarding cancellations or re-scheduled classes, are also announced in ways that are accessible to deaf or hearing impaired students.
  • In lecture/discussion classes, take care over seating arrangements and encourage people to take turns to speak. Work with the student on strategies to help them participate fully and find out if they wish any other adjustments.
  • Circular seating arrangements offer students who are deaf or hard of hearing the best advantage for seeing all class participants.
  • When desks are arranged in rows, keep front seats open for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their interpreters.
  • Make field trip arrangements early and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility). Provide plenty of warning so a personal assistant or adaptive equipment can be arranged as appropriate for laboratory work and field trips.
  • A health and safety assessment for the student may be necessary in certain situations, and should be carried out beforehand. 'Reasonable adjustments' must be considered in the light of any perceived risk.
  • Individual induction to laboratory or computer equipment may be helpful

Writing Assignments and Examinations

  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Encourage the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.

General Ideas

  • Break information into small steps while instructing on new tasks.
  • For students needing other academic assistance, remind them of campus services such as the Writing Center, and the Academic Support Center.
  • Providing review or study sheets for exams is helpful.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Make instructional materials available in text form on FerrisConnect.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
  • Face the class while speaking. Be sure that the student and the interpreter (if present) can see you while you lecture.
  • Avoiding lecturing or giving our procedural information while handing out papers. Losing eye contact with the student may also mean the loss of information for the student.
  • Repeat the comments and questions made by other students during class discussion. Acknowledge those who are speaking also so the student who is deaf or hard of hearing can focus their attention on them.
  • Using visual aids and materials during your instruction is beneficial for those with a hearing loss, as vision is their primary means of receiving information.
  • While the student maintains eye contact with the interpreter, it is important to remember to maintain eye contact with the student also.

Strategies Specific for the Sign Interpreter:

  • The student needs an unobstructed view of the sign language interpreter and the instructor. Speak directly to the student and the sign language interpreter will interpret your words directly. Do not expect the sign language interpreter to answer for the student. However, the interpreter is available to voice the student's signed comments.
  • Pauses between topics or main ideas during your lecture will facilitate the accuracy of the interpretation and thus be better understood by the student.
  • If there is only one interpreter in the classroom, he/she might need to break after 45 minutes of working. Interpreting is a highly taxing, both mentally and physically.
  • Sign language Interpreters who use "teaming" share the interpretation responsibilities by taking turns signing. When one interpreter is not signing, they should still be perceived as working as an integral part of the communication process for the student.

Strategies Specific for the Captionist:

  • In order for the student to have continuous access to the computer screen or to the person speaking and the Captionist, remember to walk around them.
  • It is in the Captionist's statement of ethics that they will not give away or sell the notes taken in class.
  • The Captionist needs to be seated at a small table near the front with access to an electrical outlet. Arrangements will have been made by the Disabilities Services staff to have this furniture in your classroom. If you do not see the table and chair the first day of classes, please notify Educational Counseling and Disabilities Services at 231-591-3057 or email [email protected].

Needs of Both Sign Interpreters and Captionists:

  • Course syllabi and any new vocabulary.
  • To be informed of any films, videos, or overheads to be shown in order to allow time for lighting and positioning to be arranged.
  • To be informed as to whether the audiovisuals will be captioned, closed captioned, labeled, titled or scripted.
  • Instructors should relax and talk normally, noting that there may be lag time between the spoken message and the interpretation.
  • When referring to objects or written information, allow time for the translation to take place. Replace terms such as "here" and "there" with more specific terms, such as "on the second line" and "in the left corner."

Strategies for Working with Students who Lip-read

Lip-reading is not easy and requires great concentration. Three quarters of it is guesswork and so clear speech and contextual clues are vital for understanding. There are lots of things you can do to make it easier for a lip reader to follow what you are saying.

  • Position: The deaf student will know where it is best to sit — this will often be near the front, slightly to one side of you. Try to avoid moving around (this may demand a change in your normal teaching style!)
  • Visibility: Face the light so you are not silhouetted in front of a bright window, for instance. Make sure you don't cover your mouth (e.g., with your hands, a cup or pen). Agree suitable cues with the student beforehand to ensure they are looking at you before you start to speak.
  • Speech: Speak clearly and at a reasonable and natural pace. Do not shout as this will distort your voice and lip patterns.
  • Reinforcing meaning: Give the student time to absorb what you have said and rephrase it if necessary. Remember sentences and phrases are easier to lip-read than single words. Use gestures where these are relevant but avoid exaggerated facial expressions. If you change the subject, make sure the deaf student knows. Write things down if you need to clarify them.


  • Advance information: Lip-reading is easier when the subject area is known, so give the student a copy of lecture notes/OHPs/PowerPoint slides in advance to help familiarize with session content and vocabulary to be used. (If you put this on the Internet, everyone else will benefit too). Ensure the deaf student has relevant booklists well in advance, as they may rely more heavily on textbooks than lectures — early access to this information is a great help.
  • Structure: Well structured sessions are important for all students, but particularly for those who lip-read:
    • Include regular opportunities to review what has been covered.
    • Indicate when the subject is about to change, or a new concept is being introduced, by writing on the board or holding up an appropriate book or article.
    • Try to break up the session with opportunities to look at illustrations, pass round handouts or complete individual tasks.
    • Allow a little extra time for a deaf student to assimilate information and respond before progressing to the next stage.

Seminars/Group Work

These can be the most challenging situation for a deaf person.

  • Size: The optimum size of group for a deaf person is between 6 and 10. If a group is bigger than this it may mean that the deaf student does not have full access to discussions. Divide into smaller sub-groups and use regular plenary feedback so key points can be written on the board, or get each group to write their own summary on an overhead transparency. Either will help to reinforce key issues.
  • Seating: Arrange the room so that the deaf student can see everyone by putting chairs in a circle or horseshoe shape. Make sure no one is silhouetted against the light. The student may like to sit next to the chairperson as comments tend be addressed that way, or next to a notetaker so that he or she can pick up on missed discussion and follow changes in subject.
  • Visual cues: Signaling a change of speaker or asking participants to raise their hand before speaking can be very helpful to allow the student to look in their direction before they start to speak.

Use of Visual Aids

  • Boards and Flipcharts: When using OHPs, boards and flipcharts, allow students time to read what is written before starting to speak again. It is not possible to read and lip-read at the same time!
  • Slides: When using slides in a darkened room leave a curtain open or a spotlight on the speaker or interpreter.
  • Videos and Tapes: If possible, try to use subtitled videos or obtain a transcript of the commentary.

Contact Educational Counseling and Disabilities Services for general ideas to help individual students.