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General Information | Hard of Hearing | Deaf | Communicating | Relay Services

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Students with hearing disabilities vary greatly in the degree and type of hearing loss they experience. Each person with a hearing loss will respond differently to amplification, and it is important to note that hearing aids do not completely correct a hearing loss to the same degree that glasses can correct vision. Hearing aids do not clarify sounds, they simply amplify sounds.

The two main types of hearing loss are:

  • sensorineural–nerve deafness which involves impairment of the auditory nerve
  • conductive deafness–usually a dysfunction of a part of the ear mechanism

If the age of onset occurs before the acquisition of language and the development of speech, the individual may have language-based deficiencies such as poor syntax and vocabulary, and difficulty understanding abstract concepts.

Hard of Hearing

A person who is hard of hearing has a partial hearing loss and may be able to communicate adequately in a one-on-one situation in quiet surroundings. However, in a typical classroom environment with moderate background noise, students with hearing impairments may still experience significant communication difficulty.


Persons who are deaf have severe to profound hearing loss. They must rely on a visual mode of communication though they may be able to hear some sounds with hearing aids.

A person with a hearing impairment may be able to communicate orally (by speech-reading and speaking or by using sign language, or a combination of both.)

Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Although they may wear hearing aids, many students rely primarily on lip reading. Even highly skilled lip readers usually only comprehend 30-40 percent of what is said. Also, lip reading students frequently miss class members’ comments and have difficulty understanding instructors who cover their lips, face the chalkboard, move around, or wear a mustache.

People who wear hearing aids may not hear sounds the way others do. Hearing aids amplify all sounds and can make small noises, loud air conditioners, hissing fluorescent light fixtures, traffic noise, etc., overwhelming. Sometimes people with hearing aids hear only jumbled sounds and disjointed fragments.

A sign language interpreter may be necessary to convey the oral message to a deaf student. A sign language interpreter uses the student’s preferred mode of communication, usually American Sign Language or Signed English. The interpreter should be placed close to the instructor, or between the instructor and the student, so the student can watch both the signing and the body language of the instructor. Interpreter services are arranged by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator in SSD. Students may use interpreters for all academic-related activities and other University sponsored activities.

CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) may be needed to convey the oral message to a deaf student who does not use sign language. This involves a court reporter in the classroom transcribing a lecture into written language that is then displayed on a laptop computer screen for the student. CART services are arranged by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator in SSD.

During lectures, students with hearing impairments often need to have the instructor’s speech amplified. Some students may use an FM system. The instructor will need to wear a small wireless FM microphone. Other students may need to audiotape lectures so that they can play the tape back at a higher volume.

Technology is available to make telephone communication available to individuals with hearing loss. Some students can use a regular telephone if it has a volume control. Other individuals must use a TTY (telecommunications device for the deaf) or a Video Phone. For location of TTYs and Video Phones across campus, see TTY and Video Phone locations.

Relay Services

Relay services provide telephone access for people who have hearing loss or who have a speech impairment. The relay service makes it possible for a person using a TTY or a video relay with a sign language interpreter to communicate with others who use a regular telephone. With the TTY relay service, the TTY user types information to an operator who will voice relay the information to a person who can hear or speak. The operator will then type the information back to the TTY user. Video relay services allow a deaf person who uses sign language to use a video camera to connect to a sign language interpreter who serves as the relay operator to voice the deaf person’s comments to the person who can hear. The relay interpreter then signs information back to the deaf person.

To reach Relay Texas by phone to call a deaf person with a TTY, dial 711. To reach a video relay operator who can connect to a deaf person through video (if you have the necessary connection information), call: 1-866 410-5787 to use CSD Video Relay. 1-866-FAST-VRS or 1-866-327-8877 to use Sorensen VRS.

More information is available regarding video relay services at or, click on “relay.”

Note: All disability related information including medical documentation, educational correspondence, and educational accommodation records are considered confidential. The University of Texas and SSD have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of such documentation.


Further Information

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