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Hearing Impairment

Students with hearing impairments may use speech, lip reading, sign language interpreters and hearing aids to enhance oral communication. A 'mild' loss may still make it impossible for the person to understand a lecturer's voice some metres away, even when a hearing aid assists at closer distances.

For people who are deaf or hearing impaired and who choose to speak, vocal control, volume and articulation may be affected. These secondary effects are physical and should not be viewed as mental or intellectual weaknesses.

Indications that a student has a hearing loss may include a student's straining to hear, use of loud or distorted speech, and consistent failure to respond.


Examples of Adaptations to Teaching and Learning Situations


  • Provide front-row seating and an unobstructed line of vision;
  • Before you attempt to communicate, make sure you have the attention of the student;
  • Speak in a natural tone and always face the students when you are talking;
  • Do not stand in front of a window or light when talking, as this will prevent the student from seeing your face. Arrange lighting so that everyone's face is well lit;
  • Be aware that moustaches, beards, hands, books or microphones in front of your face can add to the difficulties particularly for people dependent on lip reading; for those who use lip reading, only 30-40 per cent of spoken English is comprehensible;
  • An interpreter, real-time captioning or note taker support could help;
  • Utilise visual aids;
  • Write instructions and key phrases on the board;
  • Use plain English backed up by diagrams and demonstration;
  • Summarise points covered;
  • Address the student, not the interpreter, looking at the student to acknowledge that you have heard any comment made by the student via the interpreter. Unless talking to the interpreter directly, act as if he or she is not there;
  • Distribute notes and overheads in advance to students and support workers;
  • When you are introducing new words or names write them down on the board, as unknown words are impossible to lip read;
  • It may be necessary to grant extra time in exams due to the language difficulties of some deaf people.


Possible Technological Aids


  • Radio aid or induction loop system;
  • Use of electronic mail for class and private discussions;
  • Visual warning system for emergencies;
  • Windows and Word accessibility features such as spell checking;
  • Use of study skills packages;
  • Use films with captions;
  • Minicom (text telephone).