Deafness and Hard of Hearing

A guide for parents and educators.

Deafness and Hard of Hearing Described

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), hearing impairments typically fall in the groups of deafness and hard of hearing.

Deafness refers to severe hearing impairments where children are incapable of processing linguistic information through hearing even with amplification.

Hard of hearing, on the other hand, refers to a permanent or fluctuating hearing impairment that is not included under the definition of deafness.

Both conditions must adversely affect a child's education to receive special services through IDEA.


In the United States, 12,000 babies are born each year with hearing loss, however only 0.13% of these children are provided educational services through the hearing loss category. The actual number of students with hearing loss is not reflected because approximately 40% of students with hearing impairments have additional disabilities. Of the total population of individuals with hearing loss in the United States, approximately 8% are under the age of 18.


Characteristics in the Classroom

  • Difficulty following verbal directions
  • Difficulty with oral expression
  • Will often have a degree of language delay
  • Will usually exhibit some form of articulation difficulty
  • Difficulties with speech, reading, and writing skills, given the close relationship between language development and hearing

Social Characteristics

  • Some difficulties with social/emotional or interpersonal skills
  • Often follows and rarely leads
  • Can become easily frustrated if their needs are not met which will lead to some behavioral difficulties
  • Sometimes the use of hearing aids leads to embarassment and fear of rejection from peers

Other Characteristics

  • Be skilled lip readers, but many are not; only 30 to 40 percent of spoken English is distinguishable on the mouth and lips under the best of conditions
  • Use speech, lip reading, hearing aids and/or amplification systems to enhance oral communication
  • Be members of a distinct linguistic and cultural group; as a cultural group, they may have their own values, social norms and traditions
  • Use American Sign Language as their first language, with English as their second language

Simulation of Hearing Loss in the Classroom

Hearing Loss in the Classroom

Instructional Practices

One of the biggest problems faced by students with hearing loss when in the classroom is the inability to follow verbal instruction and direction. There are many accommodations that can be made in the classroom, however, to help these students.

Amplification options include

  • Personal FM devices
  • Personal hearing devices (hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc.)
  • Walkman-style FM devices

To enhance communication, the teacher can

  • provide specialized seating
  • reduce background noise
  • reduce visual distractions
  • clearly enunciate speech
  • repeat or rephase when necessary
  • allow extra time for processing
  • work with an in-class educational interpreter

During instruction the teacher can

  • use visual supplements
  • provide captioning or scripts for announcements, television, videos, or movies
  • assign a note-taker for the student with hearing loss
  • provide down time/breaks from listening
  • allow extra time to complete assignements

Helpful Links for Teachers and Educators

Some Instructional Practices Explained

Hearing Aids: Hearing aids help to amplify sound so it is easier for the ear to detect sound and process meaning. Digital hearing aids can be provided to amplify sound based on a person's hearing profile while other devices amplify sound equally. Older students prefer hearing aids and other assistive devices like induction or hearing loops and FM transmission devices. These devices allow students to hear instruction themselves and also give them opportunities to participate in classroom discussions with their peers.

Interpreters: Educational interpreters convey spoken and signed instruction to students with hearing loss so they can communicate fully. It is important for the educator to plan lessons with the interpreter and meet with them regularly to discuss classroom rules and processes. The interpreter and the student should always be able to see the teacher and each other, but the student's teachers and peers should always make eye contact with the student when speaking to them.

Note Takers: Hearing devices do not return a students hearing to normalcy, meaning students often need to keep their eyes on the teacher during lessons to fully take in instruction. If students with hearing loss are provided a peer note-taker, the note-taker can write down the key elements of the lesson that the student with hearing loss might have missed, allowing the student to give their full attention to the teacher during verbal instruction.

Big image

Home Strategies

Involvement in Sports and Extra-Curricular Activities: Sports provide students lessons on team work, responsibility, winning, and losing, and all children legally have the right to participate in sports and other after school activities in the least restrictive environment possible for them. Allowing your child to participate in a sport helps them build social skills and gain confidence. Special accommodations that parents and coaches can work together to provide for the student include
  • hearing devices
  • visual signals on the field
  • different kinds of flags for indications
  • specially lighted scoreboards to indicate the end of quarters/periods/etc.

Reading Books With Your Children: Reading with children help them to develop literary skills, become culturally aware, and be exposed to worldviews and values. Shared reading encourages communication between a parent and child and allows children to work out their own real life problems through critical thinking. When reading to your child with hearing loss you can

  • translate stories using ASL
  • keep both ASL and English visible
  • use eye contact to encourage participation
  • engage in role play to extend concepts

Communication and Managing Frustration: All kids get frustrated, but things can be particularly difficult for children with hearing loss because of strained communication. To help strengthen communication and manage frustration, parents can

  • develop a language system early on, whether it be ASL, English, or a family based system
  • have a consistent schedule for your child
  • prepare children in advance for any changes in their daily routine
  • use pictures or drawings to help your child explain why they are frustrated or angry

Helpful Links for Parents

Some More Helpful Links and Apps

Provides information for both parents and educators and helps them to get children involved in the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
A worldwide organization that helps children with hearing loss that parents and educators, as well as children, can get involved with to help others across the globe.

A Final Heart-Warming Video :)

Wells Fargo Commercial: Learning Sign Language


Berke, M. (2013). Reading Books With Young Deaf Children: Strategies for Mediating Between American Sign Language and English. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education,299-311.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

DeafTEC. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

Improving the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss. (2011, August 23). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

Parenting A Deaf Child- Parenting Tips. (2005). Retrieved April 28, 2015, from

The Prevalence and Incidence of Hearing Loss in Children. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from

Smith, D. D. & Tyler, N. C. (2014). Introduction to contemporary special education. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. (ISBN-13:978-0-13-294461-8)

Watson, S. (n.d) Deafness and Hard of Hearing - Characteristics. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from