Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing

Individuals can experience different levels of hearing loss. The two categories of hearing loss that are commonly used are deaf and hard of hearing. The term “deaf” is used for individuals with profound hearing loss (loss of 91 + decibels). The term “hard-of-hearing” indicates a moderate level of hearing (loss of 41 – 70 dB) to severe hearing loss (71 – 90 dB), which are the most common forms of hearing loss found in the classroom. Different frequencies of sound may be effected by a hearing loss, which means individuals may have more difficulty hearing certain sounds or may have more difficulty in hearing in certain environments.

Depending on the impact of a hearing loss, students may use different adaptations to hear and to communicate. Some individuals may use lipreading or may be able to understand speech in quiet settings such as in an office, or when a speaker is facing them and projecting the voice towards them. Others may use an FM system to amplify a speaker’s voice. FM systems consist of a small transmitter the speaker wears on their lapel while the person who is hard of hearing wears a receiver in their ear that transmits the amplified sound. Still other individuals use hearing aids which amplify all sounds in a person’s environment. Finally others may have cochlear implants, a device which replaces the function of the inner ear by transmitting sounds signals from the ear to the brain.

Individuals who are deaf may use sign language to communicate or may communicate verbally. They may use the services of a Sign Language Interpreter, or a Real-Time Captionist who translates what is said into typed text for reading, to access what is said in a class or while communicating with others.

A hearing loss is an invisible disability. To an observer, it may not be evident that a person is experiencing hearing loss. Individuals with hearing loss can experience social isolation in hearing-centred environments due to difficulties with communication, others lack of understanding regarding the practical impacts of a hearing loss, others lack of understanding of how to overcome communication barriers, or negative attitudes.

As with other disabilities, if people are unsure what to do they should ask the person who is hard of hearing what would work best for them, either verbally or in writing. The speaker should insure they have the person’s visual attention when speaking by either entering their visual field or by touching them lightly on the shoulder.

For more information on the impacts of this disability and classroom accommodations see hearing.