Deaf & Hard of Hearing

Deaf & Hard of Hearing – what is it?

The term Deaf/Hard of Hearing includes those who are Deaf, those who are Hard of Hearing, those with partial hearing, those who lip read, those with/without speech. This includes people who were born Deaf, people who became Deaf due to accident or illness, and those who are Hard of Hearing. Understanding the needs of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing student is critical to ensuring their integration in a mainstream, predominantly oral educational setting.

Deaf and hard of hearing people utilise different methods of communication, which may include one or more of the following:

  • Handwriting
  • Speech
  • Listening with the aid of a hearing aid or other amplification device
  • Lip reading
  • Finger spelling
  • Sign language

Have you ever wondered what it is like to live with a hearing Loss? Experience it here by downloading the Hearing Loss Simulator from the following CDC web page (opens in new window). You can adjust for background noise, change frequencies, and add in age related hearing loss. You will need to have winzip installed first.

The DSS offers training in Deaf Awareness. If you are interested in organising this for your department please contact Darrelle Keegan on

The DSS also offers sign language classes facilitated by a qualified instructor. Please contact Darrelle Keegan for more information.

Main difficulties experienced

Accessing Lectures and Tutorials

 Access to lectures and tutorials is arguably the single most important key to effective and meaningful participation in Higher Education. For the Deaf/Hard of Hearing student this can present huge difficulties. If a student is an Irish Sign language user then the provision of a professional qualified interpreter is necessary to enable access to lectures. If a student lip-reads then it is impossible to both take notes and lip-read simultaneously. If a student uses a hearing aid they may still experience difficulty capturing words, especially new words and may be adversely affected by extraneous noise.

Communication and Language Difficulties

Students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing vary in their ability to use oral language. This is influenced by: the age of onset of hearing loss, the degree of deafness, educational background and cultural background. A person who is born Deaf or who loses their hearing before the age of seven will have very limited oral language. Deaf /Hard of Hearing students may have experienced very different forms of early education, the special school environment contrasting with the mainstream experience, with different emphasis placed on oralism and ISL.

All of this has significant implications in Higher Education. It impacts on the student's presentation of assignments, in particular in relation to spelling, grammar and sentence construction. Understanding new vocabulary and terminology will also create difficulties.

At a communication level many students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing may speak in a way that is difficult to understand, which may inhibit their participation in lectures and tutorials. The clarity of the student's speech does not, in any way, reflect on the individual student's proficiency in the language or academic capability.

Social Interaction

The social experience for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can be one of tremendous isolation. The impact of this can be very significant to the individual, as he/she will not have the same access to peer support and shared learning as his/her fellow hearing students. The experience of trying to integrate and effectively participate in a predominantly oral/aural environment can also be very frustrating and stressful. Linked to this is the fact that unlike a wheel-chair user or a visually impaired guide dog user, a student who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing can be 'invisible' and tends not to prompt immediate recognition.

How can you help?

The importance of providing lecture notes and copies of overheads, in advance of the lectures, preferably, cannot be overstated. It is a crucial element of enabling access for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing student.  The student is advised that access to this material is restricted to their singular usage and any infringement of this will result in the withdrawal of this support.

Presentations are of great assistance and are particularly important to give an overview of the lecture/tutorial, to introduce and highlight new vocabulary/terminology. Other visual aids such as slides and sub-titled videos are also beneficial.

You can also:

  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Facial expressions and gesturing can be helpful
  • Don't hesitate to repeat or rephrase if not immediately understood.
  • Be conscious of enabling lip-reading by facing the student.
  • Avoid speaking while your back is turned writing on the board, walking around while you lecture and/or covering your mouth while you speak.
  • Try not to position yourself in front of a window as the background light will make it very difficult to lip read.

Communication and language difficulties

Be patient if the student's speech delivery is slow or unclear.

The literacy levels of some Deaf/Hard of Hearing students may not be as developed as their hearing peers - due cognisance should be taken of this in the marking of assignments and exams.

Support available through DSS

Notetaking support

Postgraduate students are contracted where possible to take notes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who are disadvantaged in lectures because of their disability.  Occasionally electronic Notetakers or Stereotype Operators are contracted.

Tutorial support

Post-graduate students are contracted to give one to one tutorial support to students who are profoundly Deaf or have a significant hearing loss. This support is funded through the 'Fund for Student with Disabilities'. The role of the tutor is to address specific educational difficulties which the student may be experiencing, particularly around the need to explain and clarify subject specific terminology and address language misinterpretation/misunderstanding.

Use of Assistive Technologies

Loop systems

A loop system is an assistive listening device, which enables a hearing aid user to hear a sound source, and eliminates all interference from extraneous noise.

Personal Loop Systems consist of two parts; a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is given to the speaker, in this instance -the lecturer, and the receiver is worn by the student. The devices work by using magnetic or FM waves to take the speakers voice into the transmitter and sending it directly to the receiver. This is then sent into the students hearing aids, thereby blocking out any background noise. They are extremely useful in ensuring  students participation in  classes.

Desk top loop systems have been installed in many key campus offices/services including: Disability Support Service, Admissions Office, Examinations Office, Fees Office, Boole Library, Careers Service, Student Health Service, General Services Office, International Student Office and the reception desk at Castlewhite Apartments Complex.

Alternative examination arrangements

Specific examination arrangements are put in place for Deaf/Partially Hearing students.

  • extra time (10 mins per hour).
  • written communication to alert re changes in paper or other important announcements.
  • ISL interpreter to be present if necessary.     

Guidance on employment and career opportunities

The Disability Support Service recognises the need to support students with disabilities make the successful transition to employment. The specific careers advisor for students with disabilities meets students on a one to one basis to develop career-planning skills in preparation for employment. The Disability Support Service also hosts career workshops, organises work placement opportunities and provides employer liaison support for students with disabilities.

For more information please contact:

Darrelle Keegan
Disability Advisor to students who are Deaf/ Hard of Hearing
Disability Support Service
South Lodge 
University College Cork

Phone: +353 (0)21 4902784 (M/T) or +353 (0)21 4205111 (W/T/F)

Irish Sign Language (ISL) Interpreters

Professionally qualified Irish Sign Language interpreters are contracted to provide access to lectures and tutorials, where a student's first language is ISL. This support is funded through the Department of Education and Science Fund for Student with Disabilities.

Currently there is a serious national shortage of professionally qualified ISL interpreters and consequently this impacts on their availability during the Academic Year.

Working with an ISL Interpreter:

  • The interpreter works to a strict code of practice and procedures. This includes respecting the confidentiality of all communications and occurrences.
  • He/she is present to facilitate communication - he/she is not a participant. All communication with the student, whilst facilitated by the interpreter, must be made directly to the student, in the first person. You should face the student and it is inappropriate to say, "ask him/her..." To the interpreter.
  • You can speak at your normal rate, the interpreter will tell you if you need to repeat the sentence.
  • The interpreter may also ask for "interpreter clarification" if he/she was unclear of any aspect of the communication and needs to confirm the accuracy of the translation.
  • Interpreting requires tremendous concentration and therefore the length of time, which an interpreter can work for, is restricted.
  • As with all translations/interpreting many of the terminology and vocabulary will be new to the interpreter. It is essential that the interpreter receives notes/copies of overheads/lecture outline to maximise the effectiveness of the interpretation.

3 Tips for Supporting Students in your Class who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Do you have a student in your class who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing? Are you wondering how best to support them? The video below gives you the top 3 tips to help you do this. If you have any queries on supporting specific students please contact Darrelle Keegan on Ext: 2985 or email


Disability Support Service

Seirbhís Tacaíochta do Dhaoine faoi Mhíchumas

South Lodge, UCC, College Road, Cork