Hearing impairment, or deafness, is when your hearing is affected by a condition or injury. Some people are born with a hearing loss while others may develop it as they get older.
Deaf or hearing impaired students use a range of communication methods that may include speech, sign language, finger spelling, residual hearing and lip reading – and often a combination of these.
Deaf Awareness training is recommended for staff involved with teaching hearing impaired/deaf students. Arrangements can be made via Disability Services.
Top tips for academic staff
1. Students who are deaf may use a Communication Support Worker (CSW) to interpret sessions into British Sign Language. If the student is using communication support:
- Always remember to talk directly to the person you are communicating with, not the interpreter
- There may be a short delay in the CSW completing the translation to BSL, try to monitor the pace of discussions to ensure that a BSL user has an opportunity to contribute
- Provide as much information in advance of lectures and seminars as possible, the CSW may need to prepare specific terminology.
2. Even if someone is wearing hearing aids it doesn't mean they can hear you perfectly. Ask if they need to lip-read.
3. Make sure you have face-to-face contact with the person you are talking to. Try not to move around the room too much or turn away from the audience.
4. Get the listener's attention before you start speaking.
5. Speak clearly but not too slowly, and don't exaggerate your lip movements – this can make it harder to lip-read. Allow time adjustments for the student to adjust to unfamiliar lip patterns.
6. Ensure that the room is well lit and all students will be able to see your face clearly. Try not to stand in front of windows which will put your face in shadow.
7. Use natural facial expressions and gestures.
8. Don't shout. It can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users and it looks aggressive.
9. If someone doesn't understand what you've said, don't keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way instead.
10. Write unfamiliar names or terminology which arise during the session on a board for clarification.
11. Provide any verbal information regarding in-class tasks and assignments in writing.
12. Films and DVDs – if the DVD is not subtitled you may be required to obtain a written transcription prior to teaching sessions.
13. Articles for discussion in seminars etc. should be forwarded to all students ahead of time.
14. Be aware that background noise can be very distracting for students with hearing loss. Consider discussing ground rules with your teaching group for group work in seminars etc.
15. Where learning outcomes permit, do not mark down on spelling, punctuation, grammar or structure as some hearing impaired students, particularly pre-lingually deafened will have written language difficulties.
16. In seminars, tutorials and other group situations, hearing impaired students can be disadvantaged if they can’t see others faces and if more than one person is speaking. Consider the following during group discussions:
- Encourage students to raise their hand first
- If possible arrange the group so that they can see each other, a BSL user may wish to sit on the end of a horseshoe arrangement with their note-taker sitting beside them and their CSW sitting opposite.
- Residual noise can be very distracting – be aware of this if you split the class into smaller group discussions.
- Comments and questions from the group should be repeated by the lecturer to ensure that no information is missed.
17. In lectures – use a microphone where one is available and try to avoid turning away from the group when speaking.
18. Some students may use a converser radio aid which allows for amplification of speech. The radio aid can be pointed at the speaker or worn by the speaker, please wear the radio aid if asked. Some students may use a loop system, if available, if this is the case please use the microphone as this activates the loop system.
- Refer to the information on Digital Education pages in relation to produced captioned teaching sessions.
- Consider concentration fatigue – accessing materials online may be more tiring for those lip-reading, make sure there are regular breaks.
- Facemasks or coverings – where face masks are required/being worn, use face masks with a clear panel where the mouth can be seen, or a face visor/shield. However, it should be noted that clear masks may still cause communication challenges.
- Presenters and all users wear a headset with a microphone, if available.
- Ensure all microphones are switched off when the person is not speaking to reduce background noise.
- Ensure all video materials are subtitled. If you are making your own videos you can upload them to YouTube where automatic transcription is available. This technology is far from perfect so it is important to scan the transcript and correct errors.