Learn about Hearing Impairment
Listen to Linda
Born with a mild hearing loss, Linda, aged 16, has been attending regular school since kindergarten. Blessed with the help of hearing aids and speech therapy, Linda has no major difficulties developing language skills. However, this does not mean that her school education has always been easy. She had to overcome many problems in school since she entered form 1.
At that time, Linda found it hard to follow what the teachers were saying when they talked too fast. Subsequently, she had difficulties following the teachers' instructions and received low marks for her assignments.
Apart from academic problems, Linda also had certain difficulties developing her social circle. In her first year of secondary school, Linda was very soft-spoken mainly because she lacked self-confidence. At the beginning, her new classmates were not used to the way she talked and that caused misunderstandings.
To help students understand the importance of acceptance, Linda's teacher conducted an exercise with her classmates at the beginning of every school year. The students were given a self-evaluation questionnaire, to write down their strengths and weaknesses. By sharing the results, the students came to realize that every individual was unique and that they should respect each other regardless of their differences. This helped Linda improve her relationship with others.
Academically, Linda was well supported by her school. Equipped with a sound system, that helped amplify the teachers' voices, the classrooms were well designed for students with hearing impairments. The teachers also tried to slow down as they talked so that students with hearing impairments could read their lips. The teaching materials were given to Linda in advance, which made it easier for Linda to follow.
Linda is now in form 5 and maintains a good average in most of her subjects. Her favourite extra-curricular activity is gymnastics, which helps her build up self-confidence. She has represented her school in inter-school gymnastics contests and Linda has won several awards in the past few years.
Hearing impairments refer to the difficulty in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification. Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB) across a range of frequencies from low to high-pitched sounds. Vocabulary development and understanding of abstract ideas may be delayed because of the hearing loss. Difficulty to cultivate and maintain interpersonal relationships and low self-esteem are common problems faced by students with hearing impairments.
Understanding the students' hearing loss and their special needs is crucial in planning lessons for the student. In general, students with hearing impairments who rely on lip reading need to see the speaker's face for meaningful clues.
Educators/teachers may want to consider learning sign language for better communication with the students. The following are tips for communication with students with hearing impairments:
- Identify the topic, repeat questions asked and summarize the questions whenever possible
- Get the students' attention with visual signs and keep eye contact with them
- Identify the speaker during a group session
- Have only one person speaking at a time and reduce background noise
- Use body language (including gestures and facial expressions) and sign language to supplement verbal communication
- Arrange for a sign interpreter to assist with communication where appropriate
Students with hearing impairments may also need some special teaching aids/equipment and accommodations. These include:
- FM system (signal converter for amplification)
- Loop system
- Silent overhead projectors
- Closed caption decoders
- Door bells and fire alarms with flashing alert lights
How can I make my class inclusive for hearing-impaired students?
To assist students with hearing impairments to learn and to enjoy school life, some adjustments are necessary. Some students may need certain special adjustments in teaching methods whilst others may require special accommodations in performance assessment. Examples of such adjustments are:
- Facilitate the students' participation in class by seating them according to their needs
- Provide an outline of the class agenda and a course outline to help the students orientate themselves
- Allow extra time for reading and writing
- Encourage communication by asking open ended questions
- Create a support system for the students, such as peer support, in taking notes
- Create a support system for students with hearing impairments to participate in extra-curricular activities
- Allow rest breaks at regular intervals where appropriate, as background noise from the hearing aids and the loop system can be physically demanding for the student
- Modify the teaching formats to include handouts and videos, where appropriate
- Make special arrangements for examinations, such as provision of extra time, alternative formats or modes of assessment, where appropriate
- Provide extra-tutoring or remedial classes for topics particularly difficult for students with hearing impairments
- Encourage classmates to understand the special needs of persons with hearing impairments, respect their different ways of communication and, where appropriate, encourage other students to learn sign language
DDO and the Code of Practice on Education
The Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), effective since 1996, protects persons with a disability from discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of their disability.
The Ordinance makes particular references to the field of education to ensure that persons with a disability have equal opportunities in education. It requires educational establishments NOT to discriminate against students with a disability and to make reasonable accommodations to address their special needs. Such accommodations may include adjustments in teaching, communication, and assessment methods. The DDO also prohibits harassment in educational establishments, including harassment of students with a disability by other students. The law binds the government, educational establishments and their employees, and in the case of harassment and vilification, even the students.
The Code of Practice on Education under the DDO was issued in July 2001 by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide guidance on the legal requirements under the DDO in the field of education. It serves to assist educational establishments in developing policies and procedures that prevent and eliminate disability discrimination, and educators in making provisions for students with disabilities. It covers a wide range of practical guiding principles on matters such as admission, providing access, curriculum design and assessment.
The Code is an aid for providers and recipients of educational services. It helps the providers to better understand what constitute non-discriminatory good practices in education, and the recipients to understand their rights and obligations.