Supporting deaf or hearing impaired students

Much of the learning process is based around speech. Students with a hearing impairment may find it difficult to access lectures and classes. Hearing loss will be different for everyone. Students who are pre-lingually deaf (ie. profoundly deaf from birth) find it harder to express themselves in spoken and written language. British Sign Language has its own grammar and syntax and this has a substantial impact on written skills.

Students may:

  • have difficulties with function words such as the, an, are and a
  • may produce shorter and simpler sentences and have a limited vocabulary compared to their non-disabled peers
  • often not be able to hear word endings such a –s or –ed
  • have tinnitus (a continual noise in the ears) which can affect their ability to hear a lecturer and can affect concentration.

 Find out more about how hearing loss affects development and learning.

Students who have developed a hearing impairment should be able to express themselves verbally but may not be experienced in accessing information through other means. Students may use lip-reading, a lip-speaker, sign language, a hearing aid, a radio aid or a mixture of all these to aid communication.

Adjustments you can make

  • Provide handouts and course materials in advance as students will not be able to read handouts and lip read at the same time and it will prove a useful context to lip reading.
  • Ensure students can always see your face so they can lip read. The Disability Rights Commission identify it is likely to be unlawful for a tutor to lecture whilst simultaneously writing on the board.
  • Try to ensure your light source is on your face and not behind you.
  • Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.
  • Assist students with new terminology (especially those who are pre-lingually deaf).
  • Make allowances for that fact that an interpreter or communication support worker may be present during lectures and classes. This facility could also be used in other areas (e.g. tutorials, office hours, asking questions in or after class, accessing the library and departmental offices).
  • Make use of email as this can be a valuable communication tool.
  • Be aware that students may be using a hearing aid. All sounds are equally amplified, including background noise. Amplification of your voice can be achieved through the loop systems in all lecture theatres (this requires you to use the microphones provided).
  • Be aware that students may be using a radio aid in large lectures or classes if they are wearing a hearing aid. This acts like a mini loop system. You may, therefore, be asked to wear an additional microphone which transmits directly to their receiver.
  • Consider special seating arrangements in tutorials ie. form chairs in a semi-circle so students can lip read and see other students faces as well as the lecturers.