Issues In Education Of Students Who Are Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students face barriers in their education. Through legislation and educational initiatives, these barriers continue to be broken down, but the challenges that DHH students face still exist. Educators must familiarize themselves with these challenges and overcome them through innovation and flexibility.

The best way to understand the issues of students who are deaf or hard of hearing is to learn from those who live it. This blog presents more than just a single person’s experience — blog contributors include teachers, principals, speech-language pathologists, interpreter advocates and parents to share their own stories and ideas. These faculty members work in a K-12 school for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as some children with disabilities. Their stories include topics such as best practices for educating bilingual students who are deaf or hard of hearing; overcoming engineering obstacles to create mutually exclusive spaces that provide optimum opportunities for students with special needs; deafening one classroom in an elementary school to provide enough space for interpreters; code switching among students with different amounts of hearing loss; the real cost of providing sign language interpreters in special education classes; and other topics that both inform and pose interesting questions. Issues In Education Of Students Who Are Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing

All you have to do is to continue reading to discover up-to-date information on 10 challenges deaf students face in the classroom, strengths of hearing impaired students, teaching strategies for hearing impaired students pdf, hearing impaired students in regular classrooms and issues in deaf education. You will also find related posts on issues in education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing on Collegelearners.

10 Challenges Deaf Students Face in the Classroom

10 challenges deaf students face in the classroom

This could be anything from the basic ABC’s to complex mathematical equations – deaf and hard-of-hearing students face many challenges in their day-to-day lives. So much so that their challenges in the classroom are all too often over-looked.

With that being the case, here are 10 challenges that deaf and hard-of-hearing students face in the classroom, along with guidelines for teachers on how to mitigate them:

  • Classroom Acoustics: Acoustics are often a problem in the classroom, but luckily there are several ways to solve this challenge. Deaf or hard-of-hearing students need full visual access, so the best seating arrangement for full participation, engagement and access by these students is to arrange desks in a “U” shape. This will allow the students to see who is speaking, and participate fully in the conversation.
  • Lighting: Fluorescent lights emit a special sound that interferes with hearing aids and cochlear implants, making it even more difficult when trying to distinguish what peers or the teacher are saying. Consider the placement of the window in relation to the teacher, the interpreter and the deaf or hard-of-hearing student. Windows and light should not be behind the interpreter or teacher because this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see the signs produced by the interpreter or the teacher’s lesson.
  • Language Deficiencies: Keep in mind that some deaf students’ first (or second!) language may not be English. Be sure to provide an appropriate interpretation service that will effectively communicate the lesson in their primary language.
  • Experiential Shortages: Research shows that deaf students often lag behind their hearing peers when it comes to number concepts, language and problem solving skills. Hearing students constantly absorb new information and knowledge through the daily noises, conversations and language that is spoken around them. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students do not have that luxury. Teachers can bridge this gap by being flexible in the way that they respond to the educational concerns of their deaf students.
  • Lip-Reading/Residual Hearing: Teachers often hypothesize that their deaf students are capable of lip-reading – which can be true – but it is essential to keep in mind that only 30-40% of spoken English is distinguishable on the lips. Students who rely on lip-reading often perform better when it is a subject that is familiar. When lecturing students, teachers should consistently face their deaf students, never talk when handing out papers, pause before heading into a new subject and give the deaf student applicable time to process the preceding subject’s information in case he/she has any questions.
  • Inadequate Knowledge and Awareness: Every child learns differently. Even if teachers are given instruction on how to best assist one of their deaf students, it could be completely different for the next, resulting in an academic gap.
  • Social Concerns: Children who are deaf often tend to feel uncomfortable in the classroom when drawing attention to their hearing problem. They want to be like their friends with ‘normal’ hearing, so this drives them to mainly keep to themselves and prefer to not take part in classroom activities.

This lack of engagement and attention often wears on the child, making them tired and can cause headaches. When arranging seating charts, keep in mind that it is best to incorporate deaf students into smaller groups. This will help the child relax and focus on their school work rather than unwanted, distracting social interactions.

  • Collaboration: Due to busy schedules during the school year, it is often difficult to hold regular, collaborative meetings with the individuals that are critical components to a deaf student’s academic progress. We recommend that teachers remain in constant, close communication with the student and his or her parents, as well as make sure the interpreter is available to assist with complete understanding. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and is available for ongoing conversations about proper educational techniques and adequate learning environments for the deaf or hard-of-hearing student.
  • Curriculum and Instruction: Some teachers require all students to take lecture notes during class. A suggestion to assist the deaf student with this requirement would be to provide them with a written or digital copy of the lecture information beforehand. If it is preferred that the student engages more actively in class, teachers can provide a printed copy listing key points, so that the majority of the student’s attention remains on the lesson. We also encourage teachers to use interactive whiteboards if available.
  • Lack of Resources: Often schools are not capable of supplying their deaf or hard-of-hearing students with the proper technology that could significantly increase the learning development process. This could be any form of assistive technology – interactive whiteboards, VRI, chat rooms, strobe lights, digital pen technology, closed captioning on all movies and videos, infra-red systems – hearing aid compatible, computer assisted note taking, ASL videos for testing materials, alert systems such as vibrating systems, and alarms and interpreters in the classroom.
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Strengths of hearing impaired students

Deaf and hard‐of‐hearing (DHH) children typically lag behind hearing age‐mates in academic achievement. This paper describes recent findings indicating language and cognitive differences between DHH and hearing students that appear to explain some of their classroom challenges. There is currently only limited evidence with regard to the effectiveness of particular interventions, and thus relatively few are offered here. However, recognition of the language and cognitive differences both between DHH and hearing students and within a population of DHH students suggests opportunities for modification of instructional materials and methods in ways to accommodate DHH students’ needs and build on their strengths.


Objectives: To compare verbal short-term memory and visual working memory abilities of six children with congenital hearing-impairment identified as having significant language learning difficulties with normative data from typically hearing children using standardized memory assessments.

Methods: Six children with hearing loss aged 8-15 years were assessed on measures of verbal short-term memory (Non-word and word recall) and visual working memory annually over a two year period. All children had cognitive abilities within normal limits and used spoken language as the primary mode of communication. The language assessment scores at the beginning of the study revealed that all six participants exhibited delays of two years or more on standardized assessments of receptive and expressive vocabulary and spoken language.

Results: The children with hearing-impairment scores were significantly higher on the non-word recall task than the “real” word recall task. They also exhibited significantly higher scores on visual working memory than those of the age-matched sample from the standardized memory assessment.

Conclusions: Each of the six participants in this study displayed the same pattern of strengths and weaknesses in verbal short-term memory and visual working memory despite their very different chronological ages. The children’s poor ability to recall single syllable words in relation to non-words is a clinical indicator of their difficulties in verbal short-term memory. However, the children with hearing-impairment do not display generalized processing difficulties and indeed demonstrate strengths in visual working memory. The poor ability to recall words, in combination with difficulties with early word learning may be indicators of children with hearing-impairment who will struggle to develop spoken language equal to that of their normally hearing peers. This early identification has the potential to allow for target specific intervention that may remediate their difficulties.

Awareness week celebrates the deaf community | Disability Support Guide

Accommodating Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Adherence to these laws may involve interpreters, captioning, assistive listening devices, and other procedural changes to accommodate the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing. The following are the most common devices used by deaf and hard of hearing students at colleges and universities.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

These amplifiers separate sounds from background noise by bringing sound directly to the student’s ear. They consist of a microphone, a transmitter and a receiver. The type of transmission and receiver vary by type of ALD. The three common ALDs are:

  • Inductive loop systems — These use an electromagnetic field to deliver sound. The instructor’s voice is transmitted from a microphone through an induction loop to a telecoil in the student’s hearing aid. The induction loop is typically installed in the ceiling or floor. For those without a telecoil-equipped hearing aid, loop systems can be used through a combination of headphones and a receiver.
  • FM systems — This type of ALD uses radio broadcast technology to transmit the instructor’s voice directly to the student. The instructor is equipped with a microphone, which picks up their voice and transmits it to a receiver that is connected to the student’s hearing aid, headphones or cochlear implant.
  • Infrared systems — Using infrared light, IR systems transmit sound to the student’s ears using a receiver and earphones. This light-based technology offers the advantage of privacy, since the “sound” cannot travel where the light does not.

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)

CART is used to convert speech to text. This system is also referred to as captioning. It is accomplished through the use of a stenotype machine, computer, or other software to capture the spoken words which are then displayed on a screen as text.

Students can use CART services on individual laptops or smartphones. It can also be displayed on large monitors or through a projector for use by an entire class. It applies the same technology used by the entertainment industry to provide real-time captioning. The service involves either a live stenographer on site or a remote feed to the stenographer. Remote CART requires an audio source for the speaker, such as internet phone service. Speech is captured and transmitted as text for the student. The student does not need any specialized software, as the service simply provides an email link to view the streaming text.

This option is more comprehensive than note takers or interpreters, providing 98.5% accuracy and translation. In addition to live captioning during class, CART services can provide students with an electronic file of the transcript after class.

The service is fee-based, and not every school is willing to pay the additional cost, which ranges from $60/hour to $200/hour. However, if other appropriate accommodations are not made, students can request this service as part of their ADA and Section 504 rights.

How to Help Students Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing Succeed in School

Assistive Technology

Technology is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance higher education for the deaf and hard of hearing. Classrooms and institutions currently use a variety of hardware and software to assist students with hearing loss. Other support services are available to students online.

E-textbooks are becoming more and more prevalent in college settings. More than half of U.S. higher education students have used this format for at least one class. Accessible on computers and other electronic devices, the additional features available in this book format may be advantageous for deaf and hard of hearing students. Interactive features such as polls, quizzes, note sharing and instructor annotations facilitate collaboration and interaction with the text, other students, and the professor.

Students with mild to moderate hearing loss often find it helpful to use digital recorders. These capture lectures as sound files which can be stored in a device and replayed at the student’s leisure. This can be especially useful in large seminars or locations not equipped with other assistive listening devices.

Most campuses now include an Assistive Technology Center that houses valuable resources for deaf and hard of hearing students. This center typically features support services and devices to assist students with disabilities to better access their academics and extracurriculars. Before choosing a school, deaf and hard of hearing students should inquire about the extent and availability of services at the institution’s ATC.

Whether through the school’s ATC or their own devices, deaf and hard of hearing students can use several online resources and software applications. AbleData is a resource center to connect the deaf and hard of hearing with the assistive products and solutions they need. iCommunicator enables independent communication by translating speech to text and speech to video sign-language in real-time. HearMore is a site that offers products for independent living, whether on or off campus. The latest innovation is MotionSavvy, a two-way communicator that uses gesture and speech technology to translate sign to voice and voice to text.

Noteworthy Colleges

Colleges around the country are taking steps to build inclusive learning environments for all students, regardless of individual differences. The following list highlights programs offered that provide deaf and hard of hearing students a full and rewarding college experience. When researching prospective schools, we advise students to speak with the disability services office for a better understanding of available accommodations.

Gallaudet University

GU is the only higher education institute designed to cater specifically to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students and has championed for deaf rights across the world for over 150 years. The university offers the world’s only BA, MA, and PhD program in interpretation within an ASL-immersive setting. The school is the largest-ever publisher of books aimed towards the deaf community, and notably, is the site of the 1988 Deaf President Now movement, a historic student protest that kick-started the Americans with Disabilities Act into fruition. The university offers a network of internship and service projects for its students, leads in DeafSpace architectural design, and hosts around $4.7 million in funded student and faculty research each year.

Howard College

HC is another institution that has led the way in providing higher education and career training for the deaf and hard of hearing. The school’s Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf (SWCID) is a barrier-free campus that has adapted ASL as the primary form of communication. All of SWCID’s classes are delivered in sign language and are aimed specifically towards the interests of deaf students. Students are encouraged to join athletic programs, student organizations, internships, and residential activities that accommodate their needs. Students also have access to interpreting services provided for phone calls, extracurricular activities, and all other school-related needs.

Rochester Institute of Technology

RIT is a model school for providing educational access to deaf and hard of hearing students. It is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. About 1,300 of the 14,000 students enrolled are deaf or hard of hearing. The school offers sign language interpreting services, note-taking, captioning, FM systems and tutoring. Personal advisers provide career counseling and job search services. The school also works with employers to facilitate hiring of deaf and hard of hearing graduates.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

UW-Milwaukee has nearly 1,000 students on campus who use ASL, and approximately 50 of the 24,000 students enrolled are deaf. The school offers a strong Accessibility Resource Center for deaf and hard of hearing students. Each student meets with an ARC counselor and develops a personal VISA (Verified Individual Services and Accommodations). The student is provided with copies/email of this VISA to share with each instructor at the start of every course. The VISA is updated each year as needed.

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California State University, Northridge

CSU houses the National Center on Deafness and has a deaf student population of more than 200. The school’s Disability Resources and Educational Services has developed a Journey to Success program that offers an individualized learning plan to assist each deaf or hard of hearing student from college entry to life after graduation. This initiative includes three phases. First year students begin in Transition Year and receive assistance with transitioning to college life, communicating with instructors, and accessing services. The next step is Foundation Years, during which mentorship continues with increased independence and involvement in co-curricular activities. Finally, students enter the University and Beyond stage and learn job advocacy skills and how to plan for life after college.

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