There’s no doubt that college can be challenging. It’s supposed to be. But for some students, higher education poses unique obstacles that require additional support and resources. For students with hearing impairment, earning a degree often means addressing each of these additional hurdles head-on. Whether it’s finding the right classroom accommodations or taking advantage of online learning, students with hearing loss don’t have to miss out on a high-quality college education just because of their disability.
With over 20,000 deaf or hard of hearing students enrolling in post-secondary institutions annually, colleges across the country are making an effort to help these students succeed. However, with only 30% of hearing-impaired students graduating with a four-year degree, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Learn what steps you can take to increase your chances of college success and find the tools and resources needed to make higher education manageable.
Understanding Hearing Loss: Types & Terms
Because hearing loss comes in different forms, it’s important to first identify the type so you or your child can plan appropriate accommodations. By doing this early on, you’ll be more prepared when it’s time to start college.
Common Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss falls into three categories:
When you’re talking about hearing loss or deafness, it’s important to use the most accurate terms, both with medical professionals and when working with college staff. Keep reading to learn more about appropriate terminology in this section.
Hard of Hearing & Heading to College: Making the Transition to Higher Education
While high school students have support services in place thanks to individualized educational plans (IEPs), college means starting over and setting up new support systems. The onus to ask for accommodations and disability services falls on the student, making it important that they communicate their needs to staff and faculty as soon as possible. Students who find it difficult to discuss these subjects may want to email their professors, resident directors, and others to set up services long before the first day of class.
Deaf and hard of hearing students may initially face greater challenges than the average student. However, there are plenty of steps they can take to ease the transition and get support along the way.
College Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss
To create the differentiated learning experience deaf and hard of hearing students need to thrive, students and their schools will need to assess which accommodations will be most beneficial. Learn more about a few of the most common types of accommodations below.
Assistive technology is created specifically to help individuals with disabilities perform tasks that they may otherwise find difficult or unable to do without assistance. Assistive technology has increased exponentially in the last decade, providing a variety of options for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Some common examples of assistive technologies include:
Classroom Accommodations & Modifications
While assistive technologies greatly improve the experiences of deaf and hard of hearing college students, professors and staff can do more things to support these learners. Classroom accommodations and modifications reduce anxiety and level the playing field for students.
Some common examples of classroom accommodations and modifications include:
Useful Apps for Hearing Impaired Students
In addition to the accommodations and modifications available to college students with hearing challenges, plenty of free and paid apps are available to help make the university experience more seamless. Check out these reviews of three top options, all available for Android and iOS devices.
Benefits of Online Learning for Hearing Impaired Students
Online learning has continued growing in popularity over the last decade, with millions of learners using it for the first time during the pandemic. This format offers unique benefits for students with hearing challenges. Learn more about a few of those benefits in this section.
From the Expert: Succeeding in College as a Student with Hearing Impairment
Leo Sanada is co-founder & CEO of WeAdmit, an organization that guides students on the path to the college that matches their passions and long-term goals. Sanada has a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Meiji University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
Q: What’s the most important thing students with hearing impairments should know about transitioning to college?
A: Students with hearing impairments should know that in college, they are in control when it comes to requesting resources and accommodations. While it may be intimidating to talk to your professors, college advisor, or dorm RA about your needs, it will benefit you in creating a better and more positive college experience. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help!
Q: Where can students facing burnout turn for help at their college?
A: Students with hearing impairments are just like any other student. There are resources out there you can utilize to accommodate these learners. These include captioning and transcription tools that translate speech to text for lectures. Also, be open and understanding if a deaf or hard of hearing student asks for assistance, whether it’s giving them alternative completion options for homework assignments, additional time for exams, etc.
Q: What are some of your favorite resources for college students with hearing impairments?
A: Make sure you get familiar with your campus disability resources center. They’ll be able to answer your questions on what services are available and the process for requesting these services. The disability resources center also can connect you with campus support groups where you’ll meet other like-minded students. You may also be able to access an interpreter to assist you with your communication needs on and off-campus.
Q: What advice do you have for students deciding whether to study in person or online?
A: There are pros and cons to studying in person vs. online. With COVID-19 and video-recordings for college lectures making online studying widely acceptable, it’s perfectly okay to attend school at home, especially if you want to save money or have personal responsibilities that you can only manage at home.
However, I do encourage students to try attending school in person if possible, because part of the benefits of attending college are to meet other students, expand your horizons, and have experiences you would never get if you only learned online. Ultimately, what’s most important is how college prepares you for your future career; both in-person and online schools will help you accomplish that.
Resource for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Students
This article in Farrago magazine provides an inside look and what it’s like to be a college student with hearing challenges and highlights some of the services available on campus.
In operation for nearly 50 years, this membership group focuses on supporting university professors who prepare teachers to educate deaf and hard of hearing learners.
The Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center provides a list of organizations and state governments that provide scholarships and other types of financial aid.
The University of Washington provides a great example of the types of accommodations commonly offered to deaf and hard of hearing students and what you can ask for upon reaching campus.
This every-other-year event brings together deaf students from top colleges to participate in a quiz-style competition.
This advocacy group helps K-12 and college students with hearing challenges find the resources needed to thrive.
TheNew York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities provides a great example of the city/state-level awards you may find. Check with your local governments to learn about opportunities.