Deafness and Hard of Hearing

What is Deafness and Hard of Hearing?

Deafness: a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that affects a child's educational performance

U.S Department of Education, 2006, p.1261

Hard of Hearing: an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness

U.S Department of Education, 2006, p.1262

Understanding Deafness - Educational Video

Characteristics of Deafness and Hard of Hearing

Major characteristics that people who are deaf or hard of hearing include delayed speech development, difficulty communicating, isolation, and difficulty hearing.

  • Delayed Speech Development: Most children begin learning speech when they are infants by hearing and imitating sounds. Deaf and hard of hearing children may not have this opportunity and will not hear their own voices when speaking to measure their abilities.

  • Difficulty Communicating: It is hard for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with their peers, teachers and families if they are behind in their speech development. If they are using American Sign Language (ASL) , it will only be useful if the people they are communicating with know ASL as well.

  • Isolation: Children who are deaf or hard of hearing may feel self-conscious of their hearing aid or cochlear implants. Their lack of communication with peers may lead to isolation. If a student uses an interpreter, they will only be able to communicate when the interpreter is available which excludes extracurricular activities.

  • Difficulty Hearing: Children who are hard of hearing and have hearing aids or cochlear implants will not be able to effectively hear in noisy areas including the classroom.

What is it like to be DEAF?


  • About 12,000 babies are born each year with a hearing loss but the prevalence of hearing loss in older is growing; it is estimated that 50% of people over the age of 70 have hearing loss.
  • Less than 1% of all students receive special services through the Individuals with Disabilities Act's category of hearing impairments. The number is so low because about 40% of students who have a hearing impairment have an additional disability and are reported in that category.
  • "According to Blanchfield, et. al., as many as 738,000 individuals in the U.S have severe to profound hearing loss. Of these, almost 8% are under the age of 18 (10)." (ASHA)

  • Students with hearing impairments have the highest percentages(above 70%) of all students with disabilities who graduate with a high school diploma.

Impact on Learning

First off, it is vital for a deaf or hard of hearing student to be placed in an educational setting where they can be the most successful whether it is a mainstream school, a Deaf day school, or a residential Deaf school. Children who are hard of hearing or deaf have the most difficulty communicating with their teachers and peers within the classroom. To help with communication the child must be provided enough services to allow them to understand the teacher and be able to communicate with their peers.

Accommodations in the Classroom

  • Interpreters: can use American Sign Language to translate information coming from the teacher so the student can have a better understanding of concepts and easily communicate with the teacher as well
  • Hearing Aids: can help amplify sounds within the classroom and give the student a range of hearing which can help communication and understanding
  • Visual Aids: visual aids or written instructions to support oral instruction can strengthen the understanding of the concepts at hand
  • FM Transmission Device: an assistive listening device that is wireless; teacher speaks into a microphone and the sound goes directly into their hearing aid
  • Preferential Seating: Important for students and if applicable their interpreters, seating closer to the teacher will allow the student to lip read easier. A clear line of vision with their interpreter is necessary in order for them to get all information
  • American Sign Language: many deaf schools will provide instruction in American Sign Language which is easier for the deaf students to fully understand and communicate

Home-related Strategies

  • American Sign Language: if a hard of hearing or deaf child's first language is American Sign Language (ASL) it will benefit the child and include the child if the family learns ASL as well and is able to communicate with them in their first language
  • Captions: Closed captioning is available on TV shows, movies, Netflix and even on some radio stations. Captioning allows deaf or hard of hearing people to read words and sentences that can broaden their understanding.
  • Lights: You can have lights go on and off for alarms, doorbells, or phone calls. This will allow the deaf or hard of hearing person to visually see when these are occurring
  • Video Phone: An interpreting service where anyone can call you through an interpreter. You can also talk to your friends through a video chat if they also have the service.

Available Apps

Dragon Dictation

When a person is speaking, Dragon Dictation will transcribe the words for the person to read. It will help the understanding of the conversation. The app is free and is especially helpful in noisy environments.

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Learn ASL!

There are many lessons and videos online for free to learn sign language!
American Sign Language - ASL Lesson 01


Hearing Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from

Deaf/Hard of Hearing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 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)