A new school semester is about to start. If you are an undergraduate student, you may be learning how to navigate through the world without a parental figure for the first time.
If you have a hearing problem, this may add some stress to an already complex journey. Contact your school administrators and assess the accommodations that you will need to make your time in school less stressful and less complicated. Whether you plan to take classes online, or in-person, here are five tips to make your college days easier.
1. Know that you have rights as a person with hearing loss.
In the U.S. there are laws in place to make sure that individuals with hearing loss and/or other disabilities have proper accommodations. You may have had an IEP or 504 plan in elementary school and high school. These accommodations are not a standard offer at colleges or universities.
Students who have difficulty with hearing can find support, protection, and receive the necessary accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Through this bill, discrimination is also prohibited in private-owned places that provide accommodations.
Through the ADA, public and private universities must arrange accommodations for effective communication. For anyone with a hearing problem, this may include:
2. You MUST register with your school’s disability services IMMEDIATELY.
If you have been diagnosed with a disability, reach out to your college, vocational school, or university’s disability services before the start of the new semester. This will lay out the foundation of having the basic accommodations ready and informing your professors before the first day of class. If you begin to lose your hearing after the semester starts, immediately contact the school’s disability services.
There is a process in place to register for disability services, and it’s different at every college and university. The majority of these institutions need paperwork from a healthcare provider to confirm the student’s disability. It would also make the process easier if you submit paperwork from your last school, which listed the accommodations that you received there and how they were helpful to you. Many schools will also have the option of letting students know which professors to notify about the accommodations that will be needed.
During your initial meeting with the disability services, you may want to ask some of the following questions so that they can better help you. If you need a specific service, like a notetaker or an interpreter, ask for one.
3. Be your own advocate.
Even when reasonable accommodations are provided for students with hearing loss, additional action may be required to get the support you need.
There have been some reports of instructors who refused to speak up or into the microphones provided, and preferred walking around the classroom. In other cases, a student claimed that a professor found captions to be distracting. This made lessons more difficult to hear and follow.
If the disability services or other elements of the university’s administration do not intervene, you may contact your university’s student government to take appropriate action. Some believe that this could be a larger issue, where others are dismissive about people’s disabilities.
4. Be aware of construction that’s done on campus.
Another concern for students who have hearing loss is construction work on campus. For hearing aid users, the hearing aids might intensify noise from the construction instead of your instructor’s voice. Missing out on what was said can lead to more stress and not being able to follow along with the lesson.
Before registration, look around and see if there is a construction zone set up in certain areas around campus. The university’s website should have this information, or you can contact your disability services representative for the details. If it’s possible, take a class that is not near the noise. Check if an online course is available.
5. Look for your own community.
It can be tough to advocate for your disability, so who would be better to know about the best way to do this than students who are in a similar situation?
Even though not every person may be transparent about their disability (which is fine), discussing your experiences with fellow students could lead to connecting with others with similar dilemmas. Find your community online, at your local Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) chapter, and - if available - within your college campus. If there isn’t a community, start your own. Encourage people who can hear to join your group to spread awareness.
When you find other disabled students, you can talk about ways to get your needs met - and you can all discuss your frustrations every once in a while. This type of support system will be one of the best advantages you take to help you navigate through your college experience.
Follow these tips to have a smooth transition into your new school semester and get the most out of your education.
If you or a loved one have a hearing loss, please get in touch with us at Pure Sound Hearing for a free hearing test and consultation with one of our hearing instrument specialists. Our providers will patiently work with you and accommodate your hearing needs.