Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing
Implications for Learning

A close-up, side on, of an ear with an almost unnoticeable hearing assistance device that hooks over the ear flap. The device has a thin, see-through plastic line that leads to the hearing aid inside the ear canal.

While deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students are capable of success in an inclusive postsecondary classroom, they face unique challenges. The Canadian Hearing Society (2004) reports that less than 3% of DHH Canadians hold university degrees, compared to 14% of the general population. DHH students who attend university take between 7 to 10 years on average to graduate and incur between $16,200 to $34,200 more cost than their hearing peers. 2

Powell, Hyde, and Punch (2013) report that DHH students often face social isolation and challenges with respect to academic participation. According to Richardson, Marschark, Sarchet, and Sapere (2010), results from studies examining the postsecondary outcomes of DHH students suggest that DHH students learn less and leave the mainstream classroom with less content knowledge than their hearing peers, even when the information is presented via sign language compared to text. Additionally, DHH students often experience frustration and difficulty communicating with their instructors and following classroom discussions, ask fewer questions in class, and experience higher levels of academic anxiety than their hearing peers. English is often the second or third language for many DHH students, presenting challenges with respect to grammar in English written assignments. 3

However, according to Richardson et al. (2010) with appropriate accommodations, skilled and informed instructors are able to motivate DHH students and employ methods adapted to their particular strengths and needs such that DHH students are able to learn just as much as their hearing peers.

Common Accommodations

The following accommodations and classroom adaptations are a list of suggested accommodations, but are not comprehensive or exhaustive, nor will all accommodations listed be necessary in all cases. Other accommodations may be implemented based on the individual needs of each student as recommended by your campus Disability Services Office or other professionals.

Common Characteristics of a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Student Commonly Suggested Accommodations/Classroom Adaptations
Has difficulty locating the source of a sound and/or experiences confusion interpreting certain sounds, has problems following instructions, or difficulty interpreting verbal information. Draw the attention of the student before speaking.
Avoid speaking rapidly, repeat and paraphrase, provide transcripts and/or written instructions.
Provide an FM system so student can hear the instructor clearly.
Has difficulty remaining attentive. Provide a distraction-reduced environment.
May only be fluent in sign language; has difficulty with written assignments. Provide opportunity to submit assignments in alternate format.
Provide access to a tutor to assist with spelling and grammar.
Student has profound hearing loss. Use of captions in the classroom or sign language interpreter is present.
Academic performance does not match the student’s capabilities or exhibits other learning difficulties. (e.g., reading, writing, spelling). Refer for psychoeducational assessment to determine helpful accommodations and assistive technology (e.g., note taker, tutor).
Encounters difficulty participating in group discussions. Instruct participants to take turns speaking so that only one person is speaking at a time.
Circular seating for group discussions helps DHH students watch interpreters and/or identify who is speaking.
  • 2. The Canadian Hearing Society (2003).
  • 3. Vancouver Island University (n.d.).