02 Nov

“Who can hear a snowflake fall?”

My opening question to everyone today is, “Who can hear a snowflake fall?”  

If we list all the ranges of sound that may or may not be heard

by individuals without hearing impairments or deafness, it should not surprise us that there are many different ranges of hearing ability.   

After all, it is a very rare senior citizen who does not lose upper or lower registers of hearing, and many seniors require hearing aids for every range. 

So let’s look at the definitions of hearing impairment and deafness.

Deafness/Hearing Impairments Terminology:  

Students who are deaf or hearing-impaired require accommodations determined by three factors: 

  • the degree of hearing loss,

  • the age at onset, 

  • and the type of language or communication system they use. 

They may use a variety of communication methods including:

  • lip reading, 

  • cued speech,

  • signed English

  • and/or American Sign Language. 


  Characteristics of Deaf or Hearing-Impaired Students:  

● They may be skilled lip readers, but many are not. Only 30 to 40 percent of spoken English is distinguishable via the mouth and lips under the best of conditions. 

● They also may have difficulties with speech, reading and writing skills, given the close relationship between hearing and language development.  

 ● They may use speech, lip reading, hearing aids and/or amplification systems to enhance oral communication.    

● They may be members of a distinct linguistic and cultural group.     As a cultural group, they may have their own values, social norms, and traditions  

 ● They may use American Sign Language as their first language with English as their second language. 

  Considerations and Instructional Strategies:   

 ● American Sign Language is not equivalent to English; it is a visual-spatial language having its own syntax and grammatical structure.  

 ● Look directly at the student during a conversation, even when an interpreter is present, and speak in natural tones.  

 ● Make sure you have the student’s attention before speaking.           

    A light touch on the shoulder, a wave, or other visual signal will help.  

 ● Recognize the processing time the interpreter takes to translate a message from its original language into another language.              

    The student may need more time to receive information, ask questions, and/or offer comments.  


Accommodations may include:  

● Seating that allows a clear view of the instructor, the interpreter and the blackboard  

 ● An unobstructed view of the speaker’s face and mouth  

 ● Written supplement to oral instructions, assignments, and directions  

 ● Handouts provided in advance so the student can watch the interpreter rather than read or copy new material at the same time  

● Visual aids whenever possible, including captioned versions of videos and films    

 ● Using a small spotlight to allow a view of the interpreter while showing films and slides  

 ● Repeating questions and comments from other students  

 ● Note taker for class lectures so the student can watch the interpreter  

 ● Test accommodations such as the use of a word processor or an interpreter for directions  

 ● Providing unfamiliar vocabulary in written form, on the blackboard,  or in a handout   

● Use of e-mail, fax, or word processor for discussions with the instructor   

● Visual warning system for the building the instructor uses

● A real-time transcription requiring instructor to use a microphone. The text transcript is then visible on a computer screen for student. 

Communicating with Students Who are Deaf:    

How either deaf or hearing-impaired students communicate depends on their:  

● amount of residual hearing,  

● type of deafness,  

● language skills,  

● age at onset of deafness,  

● speech abilities,  

● reading skills,  

● personality,  

● intelligence,  

● family environment, and 

● educational background.  

Students who are deaf or hearing-impaired communicate in different ways: 

● speech  

● sign language,  

● finger spelling 

● writing,  

● body language,  

● facial expressions, 

● or a combination of any of the above.

Some students are more easily understood than others. 

The key to communicating with each student is to find out which techniques work best. 

The important thing is not how you exchange ideas or feelings but that you succeed in communicating with them.   


Communicating with a Person Who is Deaf in a One-to-One Situation:  

Get the student’s attention before speaking. 

A tap on the shoulder, a wave, or another visual signal usually works.   

If you are unaware that a student may have a hearing impairment,     

do not assume they are just ignoring you. It is a good idea to test them with an obvious loud noise.  

Drop a book, clap your hands, or make a noise that should cause a reaction. 

 If it doesn’t, then refer them for further testing.  It should not be a surprise to any of us, that hearing is a complex sensory gift.  

Few of us have perfect hearing, and although none of us can hear a snowflake fall, 

we can still tell it’s falling by the sight of it floating down, 

or the cold wet joy of it upon our skin.

Best wishes until next week,

Cheryl Lynn Peele

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