Communication with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

From the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes

Deaf and hard of hearing students use a variety of techniques when communicating with others. Some students may use a combination of methods to receive information. For example, they may use an assistive listening device and CART, speech-to-text transcription.

Some students use hearing aids in combination with speechreading skills. It is important to note that even the most highly skilled speechreaders usually comprehend only about 30% of what is said. They use contextual cues to fill in the rest. Students who rely on speechreading frequently miss comments from other class members and have difficulty understanding instructors who cover their lips, face the board, or move around the classroom.

People who use hearing aids usually do not hear sounds as others do. Hearing aids amplify all sounds including background noises. This can be overwhelming to hearing aid users.

A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that is surgically implanted to provide a sense of sounds to a person with hearing loss. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by the way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals or understand other sounds in the environment and can sometimes assist in understanding conversations with others.

For students who utilize sign language as a means to communicate, an interpreter may be necessary to convey spoken speech to the deaf student. An interpreter’s role is to provide communication access between a deaf student and hearing person who does not use sign language. The interpreter signs what is being spoken, and voices what is being signed.

Some students, primarily those who do not use sign language, will use speech-to-text services to display spoken words in text format. A remote CART service provider is used to provide this accommodation for eligible S&T students. A microphone and internet are used to send the instructor’s speech to the transcriber. The transcriber’s transcript is sent back to the student who reads the transcript in real-time on a tablet or laptop.

Some deaf students may need to have instructor’s speech amplified by an assistive listening device. A microphone that is compatible with the student’s hearing aids is used to provide access to the lecture. Students will either have their own ALD or use one provided by Student Accessibility and Testing.

Creating an Accessible Learning Environment

Most students who are deaf or hard of hearing depend on their vision to speechread, watch an interpreter, or read a live transcript. Although there are some unique strategies based on the method of communication used, the guidelines below can promote effective communication, no matter what method is used.

  • Remember to communicate directly with the deaf or hard of hearing student.
  • Avoid standing in front of a light source. This puts a shadow on your face, making it difficult to speechread what you’re saying.
  • Try to avoid speaking when the student can’t see your face, such as when you write on the board or walk around the room.
  • In using demonstration and visual aids, deaf and hard of hearing students are not able to listen to the instructor and, at the same time, watch what is being explained. Brief but frequent pauses while using visual aids and demonstration are appreciated by the service provider and student. This allows the student time to see what is being said and then watch the demonstration.
  • It is helpful to write general class announcements on the board or include them in a PowerPoint slide.
  • Question and answer periods may create challenges for effective communication. Allowing one person to talk at a time enables the service provider to identify who is talking.
  • When questions are asked from the class, it is helpful to repeat the question before answering.
  • Do not talk to the class while simultaneously having students read something.
  • Remember, service providers are ethically bound to convey everything the instructor and other students say. The deaf or hard of hearing student has the right to hear everything, just as hearing students do.
  • All videos must be captioned.

Please contact Student Accessibility and Testing, (573) 341-6655 or with any questions.