Hearing Impairments and Deafness

In School and at Home

"Blindness separates people from things, Deafness separates people from people"

~Helen Keller

Deafness vs. Hard of Hearing

Deafness, as defined by IDEA, is a severe hearing impairment such that the child's hearing is impaired even with amplification.

A child who is hard of hearing is someone who has a hearing impairment that negatively affects educational performance, but is not severe enough to be considered deaf.

Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer/middle ear which "prevents sound waves from traveling to the inner ear" (Smith, pg 290).

Sensorineural hearing loss is sometimes called nerve deafness, as it is due to a problem in the inner ear or auditory nerve. These people hear different frequencies at different intensities.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder is when sound enters the ear properly but the damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve does not let sound organize properly so the brain can understand it.


  • Difficulty following verbal directions and lectures
  • Difficulty expressing themselves orally
  • May have a language delay or articulation errors
  • Social/emotional skills are lacking
  • Often follow instead of leading
  • Embarrassment due to hearing aids

Prevalence in School

0.13% of school-age individuals receive special education through the hearing impairments category. However, this is not accurate because of the percentage of students who have hearing impairments and additional disabilities. For example, the 75% of students who have Down Syndrome and conductive hearing loss who are reported under ID, those reported under multiple disabilities, and finally, those reported as deaf-blind all have disabilities along with their hearing impairments (Smith, pg 298).

What is it Like to Live with Hearing Loss?

Hearing Loss Simulation

Teaching Deaf Students and Students who are Hard of Hearing

Classroom Accommodations, Modifications, and Strategies

Students who are hard of hearing or deaf have difficulty in school due to the effort it takes to follow lectures and verbal directions, as well as their sometimes lacking social/emotional skills. Some strategies to help with this are:

  • Interpreter - for students who only use manual communication, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to read the lips of a teacher who is lecturing. By providing an interpreter, the student can focus on the content instead of missing pieces while trying to read lips.
  • Note-taker - since Deaf students learn best by watching what is going on in the classroom, watching their interpreter, or reading lips, it is detrimental to their success in school when they have to look down to take notes. By assigning a note-taker, or having another student volunteer, students won't miss what the teacher is saying by trying to look down to take notes.
  • Captions on any videos - videos used in any class only have importance if you can hear them. So any video shown in class should have captions so that all students can learn from them.
  • When speaking in a dark room, use a spotlight on the speaker so that if students read lips, they can still see them. Also, make sure that you are always facing all students and speaking clearly at a normal pace so that any student can see your lips if necessary.
  • Using visual aids is vital since vision is these students main way of receiving information.
  • Arrange desks in circular seating arrangements as this allows students the best advantage in seeing all of their peers as well as their teacher.
  • Use of audio amplification devices also make it easier for these students to hear what is going on around them (amplifies sound, reduces background noise, feeds sound from the teacher's microphone directly into the student's hearing aid, etc.)

Accommodating Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at Home

  • Arrange study time for kids so that they know what is expected and their education is supported.
  • Monitor academic progress and tutor one-on-one when possible to help support learning as well as being able to know if/when the child's grades start to slip due to their hearing or something else so that they can be accommodated properly.
  • Learn communication strategies (ASL if necessary) and an awareness of deaf culture so that children can be a part of both hearing and deaf culture.
  • Understand special education regulations, take an active role in their education, and become an advocate for an education that will maximize their potential.
  • Provide a stable and loving environment for your children.

Deafness on TV: The Importance of Understanding Deaf Culture

Not hearing loss, deaf gain
For those who are hearing impaired, TV louder provides comfort for those around them while still allowing them to be included in "family time". Just let family members adjust the TV to a comfortable volume, plug headphones in, and then adjust the app to the volume at which one can hear it. Never miss a family TV show, or hear "turn down the TV" again!
A Parent's Guide to Hearing Loss gives parents a reference for dealing with the diagnosis of their child having a hearing impairment at the time of the diagnosis, and helps them with understanding hearing, making decisions, and building a language with their child.
Success for kids with hearing loss is a great website for professionals as well as parents. This website provides resources for parents to help from time of diagnosis through school, and also has resources for professionals to promote the success of students with hearing impairments throughout their school experience.


Case, B. (2005, November). Accommodations to Improve Instruction and Assessment of

Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Pearson. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from


Parents' Vital Supporting Role in Deaf/Hard Of Hearing Education. (2007, December).

Described and Captioned Media Program. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from


Smith, D. D. & Tyler, N. C. (2014). Introduction to contemporary special education.

Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Teaching Strategies for Hearing Impaired Students: Disabilities Services: Retention and Student Success. (n.d.). Ferris State University. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from


Universal Design for Learning: Teaching Accommodations. (2015, January 1). University of Vermont. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from https://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/universaldesign/?Page=teaching-accommodations/deaf.php&SM=teaching-accommodations/submenu.html

Watson, S. (n.d) Deafness and Hard of Hearing - Characteristics. About Education. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from http://specialed.about.com/od/disabilities/a/deaf.htm