Working with Hearing Impaired Students
Modes of Communication
The inability to hear does not affect a student's
intelligence or the physical ability to produce sounds.
Some deaf students are skilled
lipreaders, 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 example) are produced without using clearly differentiated
Make sure you have a deaf student's
attention before speaking. A light touch on the shoulder, a wave,
or other visual signal will help.
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, cigarette
smoking, pencil biting, and similar obstructions of the lips can also
interfere with the effectiveness of communication.
for deaf or hard of hearing students include sign language or oral interpreters,
assistive listening devices, TTYs, volume control telephones, signaling
devices (e.g., a flashing light to alert individuals to a door knock
or ringing telephone), notetakers, and captions for films and videos.
Deaf or hearing-impaired students may communicate
using combinations of several different sign and lip-reading techniques,
including finger-spelling and American Sign Language. Each is a separate
language, and students may use different languages. Combinations of
ASL and English are frequently used in educational situations - often
combined with speech. Nearly every spoken language has an accompanying
In addition to sign language and lip-reading, deaf
students may also use sign and oral language interpreters. These are
professionals who assist deaf or hard of hearing persons with understanding
communications not received aurally. Interpreters also assist hearing
persons with understanding messages communicated by deaf or hard of
hearing individuals. Sign language interpreters use highly developed
language and fingerspelling skills; oral interpreters silently form
words on their lips for speechreading. Interpreters also voice, when
requested. Interpreters will interpret all information in a given situation,
including instructor's comments, class discussion, and environmental
The following strategies can make course instruction,
materials, and activities more accessible to deaf or hearing-impaired
Use a circular seating arrangement.
This offers deaf or hard of hearing students 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.
Repeat the comments and questions
of other students, especially those from the back rows; acknowledge
who has made the comment so the deaf or hard of hearing student can
focus on the speaker.
When appropriate, ask for a hearing volunteer to team
up with a deaf or hard of hearing student for in-class assignments.
Assist the student with finding an effective notetaker
or lab assistant from the class
If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
Face the class while speaking;
if an interpreter is present, make sure the student can see both you
and the interpreter
If there is an interruption
in the class, get the deaf or hard of hearing student's attention before
Use visuals frequently.
Because visual information is a deaf student's primary means of receiving
information, films, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful
Be flexible: allow a
deaf student to work with audiovisual material independently and for
a longer period of time.
Don't assume. When in
doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her.
Allow the student the same
anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student
or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
adapted from the division of student
services, University of Minnesota