Assistive Technology For Students With Hearing Impairments

Various types of assistive technology are now available to students with Hearing Impairments (HI), amongst many other types of disabilities. While students with hearing impairments comprise of only 1-2% of all students with exceptionalities (Hasselbring, pg. 104), the federal law mandates that the teacher create an effective environment for learning for ALL students. Technology strongly impacts the ability of the HI student to access the material being taught in the classroom.

I read two articles and reviewed several websites with information about the most current types of assistive technology for hearing impaired students. Below, I have created a list of these technologies with a brief description of each:

Teachers need to ensure that students with HI are placed towards the front of the classroom, and that they speak slowly and clearly. Several additional tips for teachers are listed on the University of Washington Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology website.

Amplification Devices
Assistive Listening Device (ALD) – an ALD, which is a technology that has been around since the 1800s, actually enhances residual hearing for students with HI, allowing them to hear sounds and volumes that they otherwise could not detect.

Hearing Aids: hearing aids are amplification devices worn on the body, behind the ear, or on the eyeglass that amplify sound. Hearing aids are limited by their need to be used in a quiet and structured environment, as well as their need for the user to be situated close to the sound source.

Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD): TDD enables hearing impairments to receive phone calls using technology attached to the phone that has a small keyboard and screen for typing. While this device is not used regularly in the classroom, it is the most widely known device today.

Frequency-Modulated (FM) Amplification Systems: FM amplification systems create a link between the teacher (with microphone) and the hearing aid for the HI student. This technology works effectively in the classroom by greatly reducing background noise and freeing the teacher to walk around the room. As a result, this is of most commonly used assistive technology devices used in schools because of it’s “versatility and portability for use in or out of the school building.”

Audio Loops: Audio Loops are adaptations of Frequency-Modulated (FM) Amplification Systems where the loops amplify sound directly through wire connection radio waves to the hearing aid. This technology decreases background noise and increases teacher mobility, by allowing the teacher to move about the room freely.

Infrared Systems: this new technology uses a transmitter to send the sound invisibly to hearing impaired listeners. This technology is considered to be better for public places, as well as better for students and teachers alike, due to it having no wires and cords.

Cochlear Implants: implants can provide sound for people with “profound hearing impairments,” (pg. 112). Implants enable the wearer to hear sounds previously indistinguishable by bypassing the damaged part of the inner ear and stimulating the healthy nerves.

Telephones & Ringers
Phone Amplification
Some phones have built-in volume and frequency adjustments which can increase amplification and clarity of sound. Additionally, existing phones can also be amplified using an auxiliary amplifier.

Wireless Technology
Wireless technology in personal listening systems provides direct and amplified sound with adjustable volume and little background noise.

Captioning allows spoken word on the television to be translated into typed English for the viewer to read. This type of assistive technology is used most widely in the regular classroom environment. Additionally, amplified telephone ringers allow customized selection of volume and frequency for those who may have difficulty in hearing the phone ring.

Alerting Systems: Visual or vibrating systems provide signals to alert the HI for various types of messages, such as the phone, a fire, a meeting with a colleague, a wake-up alarm, etc.

Live Speech Captioning: in this process, a stenographer types the spoken language as teacher talks and text is displayed on computer monitor.

Hasselbring, T.S. & Glaser, C.H.W. Use of computer technology to help students with special needs (2000). Children and Computer Technology, 10(2), 102 – 122.

Assistive Technology for the Hearing-Impaired,Deaf and Deafblind
by A. V. Nebylov, Michael A. Johnson, Marion A. Hersh

University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

University of Washington: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

Note: This page has been contributed by Allison Aboud