Hearing impairment as a disability category is similar to the category of deafness, but it is not the same. The official definition of a hearing impairment by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of ‘deafness.'” Thus, knowing the definition of deafness is necessary to understand what sort of disabilities are considered hearing impairments. A hearing loss above 90 decibels is generally considered deafness, which means that a hearing loss below 90 decibels is classified as a hearing impairment.
For people who lose their hearing after learning to speak and hear, it can be difficult to adjust because hearing has been an essential aspect of their communication and relationships.
The good news is that new technologies are making it possible for more hearing-impaired teens to attend school and participate in activities with their hearing peers. These technologies include programmable hearing aids, which teens can adjust for different environments; FM systems, which include a microphone/ transmitter worn by the teacher and a receiver worn by the student; cochlear implants; real-time captioning of videos; and voice-recognition software, which can help with note taking.
And for hearing-impaired people who want to go to college, many universities in the United States will accommodate their needs. One college, Gallaudet University, in Washington, DC, is dedicated entirely to hearing-impaired students.
Educational obstacles related to hearing impairments stem around communication. A student with a hearing impairment may experience difficulty in:
- the subjects of grammar, spelling and vocabulary
- taking notes while listening to lectures
- participating in classroom discussions
- watching educational videos
- presenting oral reports