Hearing Loss and Auditory Processing Disorders

The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), through its partnership with faculty, ensures that students who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have central auditory processing disorders (CAPD) have equal access to all programs and policies under University control. In order to assist faculty in working with these students, some background on hearing loss may be helpful.

Brief Description of the Nature of Hearing Loss and Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

The causes and degree of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. It may extend from a mild hearing loss in one ear to complete deafness. An individual may be unable to hear certain pitches, environmental sounds or everyday speech.

Given the close relationship between oral language, hearing, and reading, students with hearing loss might also have speech impairments or mild reading or spelling difficulties. Those born deaf or who become deaf as very young children might have more limited speech development.

CAPD is an umbrella term that describes a variety of problems with the brain or brainstem that can interfere with processing auditory information. Individuals with CAPD usually have normal hearing. In other words, their peripheral auditory system is fine. However, the central auditory processing system, or "set of specific skills that [an individual] needs to interpret what he or she hears" (Ferre, 1997), is compromised in some way.

Instructional Strategies for Students with Hearing Loss and CAPD

Many students who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have CAPD benefit from lip-reading. Students who read lips will seat themselves in the best position in order to watch as you speak. Please do not speak with your back to the class. Avoid pacing around the room as it is difficult to lip-read a moving target.

  • Face the individual when you speak to him or her, even when others are present. If an interpreter is present, look and speak to the person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing and not at the interpreter.
  • Use visual aids whenever possible. A blackboard outline may be helpful and will help the student focus on the topic of the discussion. People who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have CAPD need to know what subject matter is to be discussed in order to pick up words which help them follow the conversation. Providing this information in advance is ideal.
  • Speak clearly and as you normally would (i.e., don't slow down your speech or exaggerate certain sounds) without shouting. Writing is also a good way to clarify.
  • If you have problems being understood, rephrase your thoughts. (It may be necessary to repeat answers or discussion given by other students in the class for students who have a hearing loss or CAPD, particularly if the speaker does not speak clearly or is seated in another part of the room.)
  • Write important announcements and instructions on the blackboard.
  • If possible, provide transcripts of audio information.
  • If videos are used in class be certain that they are captioned.
  • Be flexible: allow a deaf student to work with audiovisual material independently and for a longer period of time.

Common Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss or CAPD

  • Preferential seating (toward the front of the classroom)
  • Assistive Listening Devices
  • Note-takers
  • Captions for films and videos
  • Sign language or oral interpreters
  • Voice-to text-transcription (C-Print, real-time captioning, remote interpreting)
  • Volume-control telephones
  • Priority registration

Sign Language Interpreting

Interpreters are professionals who facilitate communication between hearing individuals and people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The role of the interpreter is similar to that of a foreign language translator: to bridge the communication gap between two parties.

Assistive Listening Devices

Students who are hard-of-hearing or who have CAPD may use an assistive listening device (ALD) in the classroom to enhance the voice of a speaker. The most common ALD is a personal FM system; the speaker wears a microphone and the student wears a receiving unit. Students may borrow a FM system from SSD.

C-Print and Real-Time Transcription

Some students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing do not possess sign language skills, or their hearing loss can not be accommodated by an ALD. In these cases C-Print or real-time captioning (CART) may be used. In C-Print, the student is provided with the meaning of what is being said in the class, while real-time captioning provides a word-for-word transcription of the class. The student with a hearing impairment will watch a portable computer display to visually follow the communication. The transcriptionist may also voice classroom responses for the student if the student has difficulty speaking.

Closed Captioning

Closed captions are similar to subtitles in foreign language films: captions appear at the bottom of the screen so the viewer may follow narration and dialogue. Instructors can determine whether or not videos are captioned by looking at the video or DVD case, which usually contains a short statement about captioning or carries the initials "CC" or a Q-like symbol. In the event that closed captioning is not available, a sign language interpreter or transcriber can interpret the video, as is done during lectures or recitations. To prepare, the interpreter might request from the instructor the opportunity to view the video in advance.