3 Challenges that Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students Face

Photo by Tulane Public Relations (Dinwiddie Classroom  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Tulane Public Relations (Dinwiddie Classroom  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About 40 percent of deaf and hard of hearing students are placed in a mainstreamed educational environment. This is where deaf students are educated in regular school classes alongside hearing students. The deaf children are then provided with interpreters, assistive technology, and other resources to help them with their education. this way of education is becoming more and more common, there are a lot of different challenges that students and educators face. Here are just three different examples of those challenges.

1.     Auditory Fatigue

Auditory fatigue is such a big issue that we have written an entire blog post on it before, but it is worth mentioning again. For hearing people the process of having a conversation, listening, processing, thinking of a response, and then replying is natural and can be one mostly passively. For those with hearing loss, it requires much more effort, concentration, and energy because they do not have the verbal and auditory cues that hearing people have. If you think back to your school days, you can probably remember how hard it was to pay attention, now think about how difficult it would be if you had to deal with auditory fatigue at the same time.

2.    Noisy Classrooms

One challenge that makes auditory fatigue even worse is the environments that students learn in. Classrooms get loud, as I’m sure we can all remember. Studies measured the noise of a classroom during a lesson to be between 70 and 77 dB. By comparison, the World Health Organization recommends that workplaces try to have a noise level of 55 dB or avoid a loss of concentration. This noise level can create big challenges for students who rely on cochlear implants or hearing aids to help them learn. It is already more difficult for them to hear, and having the background chatter and rustling of a classroom just diminishes their ability to hear even further.

3.    Classroom Layouts

Deaf students need to be able to see the instructors to see what they are teaching, and to be able to lip-read if that is a method of communication that they use. But learning also involves listening to and interacting with peers. The traditional classroom layout of rows of desks or tables facing the front of the classroom is terrible for deaf students in that regard. A “U” or circle layout could be better for deaf students.

These are just three examples of challenges both big and small that deaf and hard of hearing students face in mainstream educational environments. There are many others that deaf students and educators could point out. These challenges are what inspire us to continue developing FreeBell, so that we can help students and educators to make education an even better experience.