Guidelines for Working with a Student who is Hard of Hearing

In General

  • Look at the student when you speak, whether or not an interpreter or transcriber is being used
  • Speak naturally and clearly.  Don't exaggerate lip movements or volume.
  • Use appropriate facial expressions, gestures, and other natural body language.
  • Avoid standing in front of windows or other sources of light.  The glare from behind makes it difficult to read lips and other facial expressions. 

Classroom Guidelines

Interpreters or Transcribers -  The interpreter/transcriber should be positioned in close proximity to the instructor at the front of the classroom so that the interpreter/transcriber, the faculty member, and visual aids will be in the student's field of vision.  The interpreter/transcriber provides students access to communication spoken by the faculty member and other students in the classroom.  The interpreter/transcriber may also serve as the voice of a student.

Note-takers -  Students may require a note-taker during class time.  It is not possible to take accurate notes while visually following an interpreter/transcriber.  Faculty can provide copies of their own notes or classmates can be requested to provide copies of their notes.  A note-taker can use carbon note-taking paper developed for this purpose, make photocopies, or use a laptop computer.  The student may want to use a recording device and have notes transcribed later onto paper.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALD) - Some students who are hard of hearing use an ALD.  This device amplifies sound the same way a hearing aid does, but eliminates most of the background noise a hearing aid would pick up.  They are very useful for lectures, particularly in large classes, since sound is transmitted directly from the speaker to the listener.  The student would ask you to use a small clip-on microphone with a small transmitter for your belt or shirt pocket.

Some faculty members may express concern regarding the audio recording of their lectures, regardless of whether the student has a disability.  However, students with vision and other impairments are legally entitled to record lectures (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the ADA Amendment Act of 2008).  Faculty who are planning to publish content material from their lectures may fear that these recordings will somehow infringe on their copyright privileges.

When other people speak who may be out of the student's range of vision or hearing, and an interpreter/transcriber is not being used, repeat the question or comment and indicate who is speaking (by motioning) so the student can follow the discussion.

When using visual media, alteration in lighting (i.e., dimmed lights) interferes with the student's capacity to read signed or oral communication.  If a written script is available, provide the interpreter/transcriber and student with a copy in advance.

When new materials are to be covered which involve technical terminology not in common usage, supply a list of these words or terms in advance to the student and interpreter/transcriber.  Unfamiliar words are difficult to interpret/transcribe.

Avoid speaking with your back to the student especially when an interpreter/transcriber is not being used (e.g., when writing on the board).  Overhead projectors and slideshow presentations are good substitutes and allow you to face the class while writing.  Since the student relies on someone else's ability to take notes, it would be very helpful to him or her if you would provide photocopies of overheads or slideshows.

When particularly important information is being covered, be sure to convey it very clearly.  Notices of class cancellations, assignments, etc., should be put in writing on the board to ensure understanding.

Testing Guidelines

Most students who are hard of hearing will be able to take examinations and be evaluated in the same way as other students.  On written exams, due to idiomatic expressions and syntactic English subtleties, some students may require an interpreter to interpret the questions in their preferred mode of communication.  American Sign Language has grammar and syntax significantly different from English grammar and syntax.  This method will require extended time and possibly a separate testing location.

For methods of testing based on oral presentations of a paper or speech, the interpreter/transcriber can voice what the student signs or says.