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Public Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students:

By Nicole Agro



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 his/her classmates. 

     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 Apr. 2014.<>.

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. <>.


Brecklein, Kim. "Notetaking." Northern Essex Community College RSS. Northern Essex Community College, 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.<>.


"Deaf Students with Disabilities." Deaf Students with Disabilities. Gallaudet University, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.<>.


"Education | Hearing Loss Association of America." HLAA Updates. The Hearing Loss Association of America, 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <>.


"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. <>.


Luckner, John L., Ed.D. "Issues in Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of  Hearing." (2013): 1+. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.<>.


Meyer, Kym. "In Class Hard of Hearing Children Face Misunderstanding." Odyssey 2003: 18-21. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.<>.


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

Also see: Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students


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