Auditory Disability

How does IDEA define Auditory Impairments?

There are three categories of auditory disabilities in IDEA. They are deafness, hearing impairment and deaf-blindness. Here are the specific definitions from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations:

(2) Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

(3) Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

(5) Hearing impairment means an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section.

The most common cause of hearing loss in children is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear. This is called otitis media. Another large group of children acquired their hearing loss because of environmental factors such as noise drugs and toxins. Some acquired hearing loss is a result of heredity.

IDEA allows states to define the degree of hearing loss which determines a student's eligibility for special education services. Deafness is usually defined as a hearing loss of 70 decibels or greater in the better ear. Hard of Hearing is defined as a hearing loss of 35-60 decibel in the better ear. In addition, to be eligible for special education services, the hearing loss must affect the student's educational performance.

Many classroom accommodations or modifications can be helpful to students with auditory disabilities. Here are a few examples:

  • Seat the student toward the front of the room and allow the student to move when necessary.
  • Face the student when you are speaking. Avoid moving around the room when you are speaking and avoid standing between a light and the student.
  • Make sure that you have the student's attention before you speak.
  • Repeat answers that are given by other students during class discussions and indicate which students are answering or asking questions.
  • Put writing assignments and other important information on the board for reference.
  • Designate a responsible student as a "buddy" and notetaker for announcements, lectures and other times when listening will be difficult.
  • Remember that students with auditory impairments may take things literally due to language delays.
  • Be careful to match your communicative intent to your facial expressions and body language. For instance, when we study, we tend to scowl. A student with a hearing impairment may interpret this as anger.
  • If an interpreter is used, speak directly to the student. The interpreter is "a communication tool". It is disrespectful not to directly address the person with the auditory disability.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Auditory Disabilities

Most commonly, assistive technology used by students with auditory disabilities helps them to communicate with others or to listen. Below are some common examples of assistive technology used by students with auditory disabilities:

  • Pen and paper for communication with others
  • Portable word processors for communication with others
  • FM Trainers
  • TDD/TTY for phone access with or without relay
  • Signaling device (e.g. flashing light or vibrating pager)
  • Closed Captioning
  • Real Time captioning
  • Computer aided note taking
  • Screen flash for alert signals on computer
  • Phone amplifier
  • Personal amplification system/Hearing aid
  • FM or Loop system
  • Infrared system

It is important to remember that a student with an auditory disability may have trouble with other functional life skills (e.g. reading, writing, recreation and leisure).

Other Auditory Disability Websites

Special Education and Rehabilitation Internet Resources