FAQ: College students who have hearing impairments

(Used with permission from DO IT:Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology doit@u.washington.edu University of Washington)

Q. COMMUNICATION: What is the best way to speak to a student with a hearing impairment?

A. Communicate in a quiet area if possible. Do not obstruct the student's view of your lips; keep your hands and other objects away from your face while you are speaking (mustaches can make lip reading more difficult). Face the student as you speak. Do not overemphasize words. Speak clearly and at a normal speed.

Q. LECTURES: What can I do to make sure a student who is hard of hearing hears information in a large lecture?

Do not turn your back to the group. Avoid lecturing against a window since the light through the window may throw a shadow over your mouth, making lip reading difficult. Finally, avoid obscuring your mouth with books, hands, or other materials.

Q. TELEPHONE: How do individuals with hearing impairments communicate by telephone?

A. There are three different kinds of technology used for telephone communication.

The TTY, TDD, and TT acronyms are used interchangeably for the same mechanical teleprinter equipment. TTY means "TeleTYpe." TDD stands for "Telecommunications Device for the Deaf," and TT stands for "Text Telephone." A TTY is used by a person who does not have enough functional hearing to understand speech even with amplification. Users of this system communicate through typed text.

Amplification devices can be added to telephones that allow people who are hard of hearing to benefit from enhanced volume and can be provided through the handset, headset, in-line amplifier, portable amplifier, or a control on a telephone base. Cellular telephones can also be used with amplification devices.

A third method is through a relay system. A relay service is used when only the person with a hearing impairment has a TTY/TDD/TT. The person with a hearing impairment types her part of the conversation into a TTY and the message is read by a relay operator who also has a TTY. The relay operator reads the message to the other hearing party. As the other party responds orally, the relay operator types what is spoken into the TTY unit which is read by the person who is hearing impaired.

Q. TTY/TDD/TT: How does a TTY/TDD/TT work?

A. A TTY, "TeleTYpe" TDD, "Telecommunications Device for the Deaf ", or TT "Text Telephone" refers to one piece of equipment with a small keyboard and visual display. The person using the equipment types what they would like to say and the text is shown on the display. TTYs use a coupler or modem to convert electric impulses into acoustic signals which are then transmitted to a telephone receiver. The signals are sent to the receiver's TTY and are converted into text messages. In order for a person to use a TTY, the individual at the other end of the conversation must also have one or they must use a relay service.

Q. VIDEOS: I have several instructional videotapes that I use; how can I make sure students with hearing impairments are able to access the content?

A. Video or film information can be accessed by those who cannot hear the audio in three ways:

  • captioning,
  • sign-language interpreting, or
  • transcribing.

Closed captioning requires the use of a decoder to view the captioning. Open captioning displays the text automatically during every viewing. No special equipment is needed to view open captioning. Ask the publisher for captioned versions of videotapes you can use in class. If a captioned version of a videotape is not available, a sign language interpreter can translate verbal information from the video for a student who knows sign language. Transcription can be provided as a last resort. Ask the videotape publisher for a transcript of the tape. Be sure the student has time to read the transcript before the videotape is shown since she cannot read the script and access visual content at the same time.

Q. CAPTIONING: How do I caption videos that I create?

A. Your videos can be captioned on your campus if the proper equipment and expertise is available, or they can be sent out to a captioning service for a fee. Check with your video production center or disabled student services office to inquire if this service is provided on campus. For more information, consult the publication entitled Creating Video and Multimedia Products that are Accessible to People with Sensory Impairments.


A. ALDs are Assistive Listening Devices. They consist of a microphone/transmitter positioned close to the speaker's mouth that sends the speaker's voice through the air or by cable to the receiver worn by the student. ALDs can provide clear sound over distances, eliminate echos and reduce the distraction of surrounding noises, allowing the student to more easily attend to the instructor.