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Hearing loss-how it affects people

Smiling young woman talking using sign language with her hearing impairment man

The challenges faced by the hearing impaired are numerous. sometimes they feel like they have no hope of ever being able to live a normal life. They are shunned by many because others sometimes, misunderstand them. The hearing impaired have limited access to education. It can be very difficult for them to learn under normal circumstances. They usually require special attention and teaching methods.

Challenges faced by the hearing impaired, Special education

Special education is education that is tailored for persons with disabilities. It can sometimes be difficult for the hearing impaired to learn in the classroom but sign language has helped to fix some of those problems. Schools have been set up in most countries for persons with physical, mental and learning disabilities. Hearing impaired student within these learning environments have access to special facilities and also teachers who are fluent at sign language. Their learning environment is tailored for their success.

Social Withdrawal

For persons with hearing impairments it can seem very difficult to socialize with others. This is due to the difficulty they have communicating with others. There are social intervention programs for people with disabilities . Social intervention programs find creative ways to get disabled persons engaged all over the globe. Places in Germany (and all across Europe) allow hearing impaired persons to express their artistic talents using sign-poetry (poetry using sign language). Programs like this help those within the disabled community to feel more welcome in society.

How can we help the Hearing Impaired?

10 Challenges Deaf Students Face in the Classroom

Imagine trying to learn a lesson in a classroom trapped inside of a clear sound-proof box. The only way you can gather information is visually and you will be tested on what you’ve learned or were supposed to have learned at the end of the day. Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?

The only way you can gather information is visually and you will be tested on what you’ve learned or were supposed to have learned at the end of the day. Seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?

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.
  • 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.

These are only 10 of the many challenges that deaf and hard-of-hearing students face in the classroom, and we hope it helps open conversations in your school and district about taking a few additional steps to assist deaf students in the classroom. By acknowledging the challenges deaf students are facing and implementing strategies to alleviate those learning barriers, teachers create a learning environment that will benefit all students every day.

How Technology Assists Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Students managing disabilities in the classroom, are often embarrassed to share them or do not have a thorough knowledge of the resources that are available to them. With this knowledge in mind, campuses should not wait for students to self advocate for disability accommodations.

Campuses can start by providing key technologies to deaf and hard of hearing students and consider ways to implement them when initially designing classroom and student experiences. When these students’ needs are served, their academic performance and ability to reach graduation improve significantly.

What Technology Assists Students with Disabilities?

Technology can greatly support students in reaching their full academic potential. By giving them a few tools, universities can level the playing field for all students. There are also low, mid and high tech assistive technology options, which often work well in combination.

Using technology can be as simple as printing texts in larger fonts, if students struggle to read smaller text. Additional methods include offering electronic Braille to help blind students read both texts and graphs, providing transcription of lectures to help with note taking, implementing spin and puff systems to help students with mobility issues control on-screen movement with their mouths and much more.

Technology for Hearing Impaired Students in the Classroom

According to the NIDCD, there are three types of technologies that can aid students living with hearing loss in the classroom: assistive listening devices, augmentative and alternative communication devices and alerting devices.

Assistive Listening Devices

“Assistive learning devices help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise,” explains the NIDCD.

Hearing loop systems, also known as induction loop systems, are another example. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), universities can connect a professor’s microphone directly to a student’s hearing aid with a wire that goes across the room. The electric current that moves through the wire when the professor speaks make it easy for the hearing impaired student to hear, even when the class is large or noisy.

Similarly, frequency modulated (FM) systems can use radio signals to transmit sound from a professor’s microphone “to an individual at a constant volume, regardless of a person’s distance from the FM microphone,” explains the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. Depending on the student’s level of hearing loss, FM systems are used as augmentative communication devices as well.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices

Augmentative devices help hearing impaired students understand others and communicate better themselves. According to NIDCD, “keyboards, touch screens” and a “display panel… [that] faces outward so that two people can exchange information while facing each other” can be used to improve communication. Campuses can implement these technologies in both classes for effective communication and in offices that provide services to students.
Presenting clear texts and visuals in presentations can help professors communicate their messages more clearly to students too.

Alerting Devices

Alerting devices adapt sound to other forms of communication. For example, when a fire alarm goes off on campus, it may also blink intensely with a bright red light to get the attention of hearing impaired and deaf students.Speech-to-text devices for hearing impaired students have also been a game changer. Also known as speech synthesis, these devices translate human speech to text. As technology has progressed, these devices have become more efficient, now reaching 99% accuracy.

How Modern Technology Helps Students with Hearing Loss

Technologies designed for hearing in the classroom are abundant and diverse.
For example, automatic speech recognition, or ASR, software often helps with the differentiation of different voices in classrooms. The transcribed text can help students determine who said what. This usage comes into play during class participation or when students speak out of turn.

When these devices, or other transcription software products, are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can also be trained to understand course material. To make the tech smarter, software providers often input related articles, books, current event information and terminology into the system. The system also gets smarter the more it is used, which makes providing accurate course transcription and captions for course videos easier, faster and more cost effective.

As a result, institutions can feel comfortable providing real-time captions of lectures or webinars to students. Real-time captioning is helpful for all students, in addition to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, by providing them with another method of retention – a visual aid.

Technology Helps All Students, Not Just Those with Disabilities

When you provide technology that assists deaf or hearing impaired students in classrooms, you also serve a wide range of student groups that do not have disabilities too.
Students studying in their second or third language might find it easier to follow what’s being said if captions are provided. Captions also help when reviewing course videos on a train for example, as students commute, but are unable to play the audio out loud.

Academic transcription software can also be used to support students without disabilities, but who struggle with note taking or those who miss a class and need access to its lecture material. By planning ahead to serve diverse needs, campus leaders can provide personalized learning paths with technologies that assist in improving all students’ performance, whether or not these individuals actively seek out the university’s help.

Life can sometimes seem more difficult than normal for people with disabilities but there are ways in which we can make it better for them. We can try to create a friendly environment and try to make them feel more comfortable. The best way to do this is by making sign language a universal language and removing the difficulties caused by lack of communication. We can all change the World, one person at a time!

Written by odanemorgan

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