Assistive Technology for Hearing-Impaired Students

Instructor: Judi Shroyer
This lesson will discuss options in two specific categories of assistive technology to help students who are hard of hearing: assistive listening devices (ALDs) and augmentative and alternative communication devices (AACs).

Deafness

Most people think of hearing as all or nothing: Either we can hear or we can't. But this is not always the case. Take a moment to plug your ears. Is your ability to hear 100% cut off? What types of sounds are getting through? Chances are, the sounds you are currently hearing are muffled to some degree or another. This is the way individuals who are hard of hearing generally hear -- like their ears are plugged or they are under water.

Symbol for individuals who are hard of hearing
symbol for HI

What Is Assistive Technology?

When thinking about communication, it is important to remember that it's a two-way street: hearing and understanding and expressing thoughts and ideas. Assistive technology refers to any type of device or technology that helps someone who is hard of hearing to communicate more effectively with others.

There are generally two types of assistive technology used to help deaf students: assistive listening devices (ALDs) and augmentative and alternative communication devices (AACs). Let's look at these in more detail now.

Assistive Listening Devices

ALDs are often used to amplify sound for deaf individuals in larger situations, such as whole-class instruction. There are primarily three different types that are appropriate and effective within the classroom, all of which can usually be paired with the technology in today's hearing aids and cochlear implants.

The most common type of ALD used in classrooms is an FM system, using radio signals to send amplified sound within the classroom. As the teacher, you'd speak into a small transmitter microphone worn around your neck or clipped to your clothing. Your student would have the receiver (either a headset or a hearing aid) that transmits the sound directly to his or her ears. FM systems are great tools for classrooms because they are simple, convenient, and effective for deaf students.

The second type of ALD is a hearing loop or induction loop system, which has four components: 1. the sound source, such as a microphone; 2. an amplifier in the area; 3. a special loop wire run throughout the classroom or under the carpet; 4. a headset or receiver worn by the student who is hard of hearing. This is great assistive technology because the sound is picked up directly by the receiver either within a hearing aid or by a headset, so the quality is extremely good.

The third type of ALD that is used in many schools is infrared systems. In this technology, a special transmitter converts sound waves into an infrared signal and beams that signal to a receiver worn by the student. The infrared signal is then turned back into the sound that the listener hears. Sounds like a sci-fi movie, right? Nope! It's assistive technology!

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices

While ALDs are primarily used for communicating in whole-class situations, AACs are more suited for face-to-face interaction within the classroom.

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