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Who are Students with Hearing Loss?

Students with hearing loss are generally referred to as deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. Distinctions among these groups are based primarily on the individual's preferred means of communication rather than degree of hearing loss. The following definitions are adapted from the Canadian Hearing Society (2003) [Note 1].

  • The term Deaf* refers to students with hearing loss who identify with, and participate in, the language, culture, and community of Deaf people, and whose preferred mode of communication is sign language.

  • The terms oral deaf and hard of hearing refer to students with a range of hearing loss who identify with, and participate in, the language, culture, and community of the hearing world. They use spoken language as their preferred mode of communication, and make use of speech, residual hearing, and speechreading.

  • The term deafened refers to students who grow up hearing or hard of hearing and then experience a gradual or sudden profound loss of hearing. Students who are deafened generally continue to communicate orally; however, some may use sign language.

Always ask your student how he/she prefers to be identified. Please note that individuals with hearing loss generally do not prefer to be referred to as hearing impaired.

Things to Consider

Virtually all Deaf students at York use American Sign Language (ASL), the native language of Deaf people in English-speaking North America. They require the services of sign language interpreters. English may be the second or even third language for some of these students.

Students who are oral deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing generally supplement their residual hearing with assistive technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and FM systems. They may also rely on speechreading for communication.

What Instructors Might Do

  • Always ask D/deaf, deafened or hard of hearing students to identify their communication preferences and support service requirements
  • If there is an interpreter, real-time captioner, or computerized note taker in the class, invite the student (not the service provider) to explain their respective roles and appropriate etiquette to the rest of the class;
  • Look and speak directly to the student with the hearing loss not at the service providers
  • Avoid turning your back to the student
  • Do not cover your mouth or chew gum when speaking;
  • When using audio-visual materials, try to select materials that are closed captioned - check with the Sound and Moving Image Library, 125 Scott Library, for more information about closed captioned videos or films;
  • Use visual aids as much as possible and ensure that there is enough light available for the student to see the interpreter
  • Reinforce verbal presentations with written text as much as possible by writing technical terms and proper names on the blackboard
  • Provide in writing such vital information as assignment deadlines or changes in the class schedule;




[1] Canadian Hearing Society (2003). Retrieved December 6, 2006 from


Updated on October 25th, 2013.