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Classroom Accommodations for Students Who Are Hard of Hearing

classroom
Photo by SCUHS (Flickr)

Hearing impairment in the classroom can be a major hurdle. Being hard of hearing can be challenging by itself, but add to that trying to learn in an environment that is not appropriate for your condition and things can quickly become intolerable. But since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, deaf and hard-of-hearing students have had access to specific programs and technologies meant to level the playing field.

The first step to gaining access to accommodations for hearing-impaired students is the development of an individualized educational plan by an IEP team, typically using some type of IEP checklist. This team most often consists of one or both of the parents of the hard-of-hearing child, a school administrator or special education program representative, one of the child’s regular teachers, and someone who can interpret the implications of the child’s evaluations, such as the school psychologist.

Putting the Plan in Motion

Once the IEP process is completed, then the school begins to implement the agreed-upon plan to help the child with hearing loss in the classroom. The plan usually consists of a combination of specialized services, such as a sign language interpreter, and other accommodations for hearing-impaired students in the classroom. Often,the accommodations include some type of assistive technology. For hearing-impaired in the classroom, some schools go all out and install permanent FM radio transmitters. These transmitters rebroadcast the voice of the teacher, who wears a small microphone, enabling the hard-of-hearing student to control the volume of the teacher’s voice using a receiver with headphones. An increasing number of these devices can also tie directly into a person’s hearing aid via Bluetooth so there is no need for other equipment. Assistive technology for hearing-impaired in the classroom is becoming more and more common in schools across the country as options become more effective and more economical.

Technology isn’t the only tool that schools have to assist a hearing-impaired student. Often, the physical layout of the classroom is modified as well. Instead of the classroom being set up in rows, the desks might be set up in a “U” shape instead. This enables the hard-of-hearing student to not only see the teacher better but the other students as well. By being able to observe the gestures, body language, and overall reactions of the other students, a hard-of-hearing student can learn appropriate body language and responses to situations, and if the student is able to lipread, this type of layout is very helpful to them because they can see the mouths of both the teacher and all of their fellow students as they are speaking.

Through accommodations such as these, a hard-of-hearing student can have a level playing field that allows them an equal chance for academic success. If you are the parent of a child with hearing impairment, don’t hesitate to speak up and advocate for their needs, as the benefits of having an IEP in place can make a sizable difference in a student’s classroom experience.

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