Working with Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Although the term “hearing impaired” is often used to describe people with any degree of hearing loss, the term can imply a deficit or that something is wrong that makes a person less than whole.¹ Instead, the terms “deaf” or “hard of hearing” are considered more positive and are more widely preferred by those in the deaf and hard of hearing community.  The term “deaf” usually refers to an individual with very little or no functional hearing.² “Hard of hearing” refers to a hearing loss where there may be enough residual hearing that an auditory device, such as a hearing aid or FM system, provides adequate assistance to process speech.¹

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing often use various types of assistive technology depending on their individual needs.  Examples of assistive technology can include, but are not limited to, hearing aids, cochlear implants or other implantable devices, captioning, and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).5  See resources below for more detailed information regarding assistive technology.

Tips for working with students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Make sure you have the student’s attention before speaking.  Call out the person’s name; if that is not successful, a tap on the shoulder, a wave, or another visual signal usually does the trick.
  • Look directly at the student when you speak, whether or not an interpreter or transcriber is being used.
  • Speak slowly, naturally, and clearly.  Don’t exaggerate lip movements or volume.
  • Use appropriate facial expressions, gestures, and other natural body language.
  • Do not place anything in your mouth when you are speaking.  Chewing gum or putting your hands in front of your face make it difficult for deaf people to follow what is being said.
  • Avoid standing in front of windows or other sources of light.  The glare from behind makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions. 
  • First repeat, then try to rephrase a thought if you have problems being understood, rather than repeating the same words again.3

Resources 

Information was adapted from the following resources:

1 University of Washington DO-IT Program – Provides information about appropriate terminology and well as links to additional resources

2 Deaf TEC – Resources for hiring and working with those who are deaf or hard of hearing

3 disAbility Navigator – Tips for communication with deaf and hard of hearing individuals 

4 Hearing, Speech. and Deaf Center – Additional tips for communicating with deaf or hard of hearing individuals

5 Hearing Loss Association of America – Information regarding different types of assistive technology