Hearing impairment refers to a range of disabilities, from deafness to moderate impairment. Communication is the major challenge facing the student who is hearing impaired. Students vary to some degree in their communication skills: factors such as personality, intelligence, degree of hearing impairment, residual hearing, age of onset, and family environment all affect the kind of communication the student uses. As a result of these and other variables, a student may use a number of communication modes as described below:
- Speech reading (lip reading): A hearing impaired person can typically understand 30 to 40 percent of spoken English by watching the speaker's lips.
- Sign Language: Many, but not all persons who are hearing impaired, use sign language or "manual" communication. In sign language, thoughts are expressed through a combination of hand and arm movements, positions, and facial expressions. The specialized language of University coursework can pose a challenge for sign language users: for that reason it is imperative that the instructor, student, and sign language interpreter work together to develop strategies to address the specialized vocabulary of academic disciplines. Read Tips for Effective Communication with Students using Sign Language Interpreters for more information.
- Writing: Students who are hearing impaired will also communicate in writing when speech reading or sign language cannot be used effectively. Faculty members should not hesitate to write notes when necessary to communicate with a student. Word processing programs can be a valuable communication resource if a computer is available.
- Speech: Some hearing impaired students can, and do, speak. Some cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their speech so the speech may be initially difficult to understand. Understanding typically improves with familiarity.
Sign Language Interpreters
DSS currently employs four full-time Sign Language Interpreters. At the beginning of the semester, these interpreters will be assigned specific classes to interpret; unless an interpreter is ill, you can expect to see the same person for each class session. In addition, a student may request that an interpreter accompany him to meetings with instructors if an interpreter is available.
Having an interpreter in the classroom can be an unusual experience and may take some getting used to. Please read Tips for Effective Communication with Students using Sign Language Interpreters for more information on what to expect and how to communicate with a hearing impaired student using a sign language interpreter.
A TeleTypeWriter (TTY)(also called a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD)), is a device for typing over telephone lines. Anyone having a TTY can call another party who has a TTY. If one of the parties does not have a TTY, there are "relay" services which one can call via voice or TTY. The relay service will call the other party and relay the conversation between parties as in a normal conversation.
If you do not have a TTY, you can call the Kansas Relay Center at any time at their toll free number: 1-800-766-3777. Have the phone number of the party you are trying to reach ready to give to the operator. The operator will then type out what you say to the individual using the TTY and will voice back to you what the TTY user has typed.
Sound Amplification Systems
Also termed FM Listening Systems, sound amplification systems can assist some students who are hearing impaired. These systems consist of a transmitter, worn by the professor, and a receiver, worn by the student. The transmitter sends the professor's voice to the receiver's system via FM signals, thereby improving the student's ability to hear the professor.