Public Education for Deaf and
Hard of Hearing Students
Statistics tend to
show a success gap between "hearing students" (students without
hearing loss) and deaf students in public schools. Why do hearing
students often achieve more in school than students with hearing
loss? What can be done about this? There are many answers to these
questions and many ways to improve this inequity. It is important
to first look at the situation, identify the problem, and then
discuss how to help students who are struggling with hearing loss.
Currently, hearing loss is ranked third in the U.S. for
most common health issues - just below heart disease and arthritis (HLAA,
2014). In the U.S. two to three of every 1,000 children are born
deaf or hard-of-hearing. Studies have shown that loud music
transmitted through ear buds is responsible for approximately 1 in 5
teens incurring hearing loss. (HLAA, 2014). For children, a hearing
loss can have an enormous negative effect on their speech and
language development. A hearing loss can effect a child’s
self-confidence when interacting with others, as many deaf and hard
of hearing kids feel isolated because of their inability to
communicate and understand their hearing peers. (American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2011). Many deaf and hard
of-hearing children also struggle academically with reading and
math. Research from the American Speech-Language Hearing
Association indicates that on average, children with a mild to
moderate hearing loss who do not receive intervention services are
likely to be “one to four grades lower” than average hearing
children. Those with a more profound hearing loss who do not receive
services barely pass the third grade level (American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2011).
Time and time again,
deaf and hard of hearing people have proven to be just as capable
intellectually as their hearing peers. If so, why is it then that
many deaf and hard of hearing children struggle in public school?
The biggest reason is a lack of understanding. Unless they have a
hearing loss themselves, it is impossible for people to truly
understand what it is like to be deaf or hard of hearing. For
teachers, many are unaware of how to ensure a student with a hearing
loss receives and understands all the information. Without proper
experience or knowledge on how to teach a deaf or hard of hearing
child a teacher cannot be expected to be prepared to assist the
child properly. Teachers can also make incorrect assumptions
regarding the learning abilities, behavior, and comprehension of
deaf and hard of hearing students.
For students with hearing aids, a teacher may think
“they must be able to understand me if they have hearing aids,
right?” Wrong, all a hearing aid does is amplify sound to make it
more audible, not necessarily intelligible (Dc. Zagarella, Michael
1998). In some cases, the students are accused of not paying
attention, or “having behavior problems” and are wrongly labeled
with conditions like ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive
Disorder) (Meyer, Kym 2003).
Even a teacher’s teaching habits can have a troublesome
effect on the student’s learning. Often teachers will turn their
backs or move about the classroom while speaking; in this case, it
is very difficult for the deaf or hard of hearing student to fully
understand what is being said without the visual aid of the
teacher’s lips. Rapid speech pace, soft voices, foreign accents and
oral lectures without printed notes are all common complaints by
deaf and hard of hearing students. One of the worse issues for some
deaf and hard of hearing students is having a teacher who simply
doesn’t take the child’s needs into consideration because he/she
feels that they already have too many students to worry about.
After recognizing the
difficulties in the classroom faced by students with hearing loss,
the next step is to identify solutions and necessary
accommodations. What do these students need in order to have full
access to all required information? It is important to remember that
many children learn differently and have a different degree of
hearing loss, so one specific way for dealing with hearing loss may
not work for everyone. For those students with profound hearing loss
who rely on ASL, it is essential that an interpreter and, ideally, a
notetaker are present at all times to ensure that the student
understands what the teacher is saying and receives the information
in printed form. For students who wear hearing aids and communicate
orally, it may be necessary for their teacher to wear an FM system.
As described by Kym Meyer, currently the director of the Outreach
Partnership Program at the Learning Center for the Deaf, an FM
system will amplify the teacher’s voice so that background noises
will be less distracting (Meyer, Kym 2003). Teachers, however, must
keep in mind that other noises around him/her may be amplified as
well, and a clear, projective voice is still essential. It is
important for the teacher to reiterate all the questions and answers
discussed during the class, as the FM System prevents the hard of
hearing student from hearing the additional information shared by
Close Captioning is vital for deaf and hard of hearing
students so that they may follow along and understand videos that
teachers may use in their lessons. Printed notes are also necessary
because it is extremely difficult for these students to focus on
what the teacher is saying while writing information at the same
time (Brecklein, Kim 2014). Extended time on tests should also be
required for certain classes, like reading and math, where deaf and
hard of hearing students tend to have more difficulties
understanding and processing the information (Adult Basic
Education). Group work is also a beneficial teaching strategy
because it not only encourages students who may be more insecure
about their hearing loss or speech to socialize with their hearing
peers. This also allows the other students to become more familiar
and comfortable when interacting with kids who are deaf or hard of
hearing. Lastly, parents play an important role for advocating for
their child’s needs because many children find it difficult and
intimidating explaining certain issues to their teachers. Even if a
child wears hearing aids or a cochlear implant, federal law allows
parents and deaf and hard of hearing kids the right to advocate for
efficient devices; this includes teachers changing or modifying,
certain teaching methods and/or classroom settings (HLAA, 2014).
No matter how severe a
hearing loss may be, every child deserves the right to perform to
the best of their abilities. All these children need are the proper
accommodations and support from their families and teachers. By
looking back at the issues regarding deaf and hard of hearing
students mainstreamed in public schools, we now can focus on
solutions to help these students succeed. Hopefully with the
accommodations and support mentioned above, future generations of
deaf and hard of hearing children will have an equal opportunity to
succeed & achieve academic excellence.
"Adult Basic Education Disability
Manual." Testing Accommodations. Adult Basic Education, n.d. Web. 06
American Speech- Language- Hearing Association.
"Effects of Hearing Loss on Developement." Audiology Information
Series 2011: 2.
"Basic Facts About Hearing Loss | Hearing Loss
Association of America." HLAA Updates. The Hearing Loss Association
of America (HLAA), 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss>.
Brecklein, Kim. "Notetaking." Northern Essex
Community College RSS. Northern Essex Community College, 2014. Web.
28 Mar. 2014.< https://www.necc.mass.edu/academics/support-services/learning-accommodations/deaf-and-hard-of-hearing-services/student-resources/accommodations-tipsheets/notetaking/>.
"Deaf Students with Disabilities." Deaf
Students with Disabilities. Gallaudet University, n.d. Web. 06 Apr.
"Education | Hearing Loss Association of
America." HLAA Updates. The Hearing Loss Association of America,
2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/education>.
"For Parents of Children with Hearing Loss |
Hearing Loss Association of America." HLAA Updates. The Hearing Loss
Association of America (HLAA), 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/parents-children-hearing-loss>.
Luckner, John L., Ed.D.
"Issues in Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing."
(2013): 1+. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.< http://www.unco.edu/ncssd/resources/issues_dhh.pdf>.
Meyer, Kym. "In Class Hard of Hearing Children
Face Misunderstanding." Odyssey 2003: 18-21. Web. 01 Apr.
Zagarella, Michael. "Teacher's to FM System for
Hearing Impired Children." Zagarella, Michael. Teacher's to FM
System for Hearing Impired Children. Massachusetts, 1998.10.
Submitted May 12, 2014
Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
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