College, Hearing Loss, and Self-Advocacy
The Fall semester is around the corner, and whether you are a new or returning college student with hearing loss, here are six tips to help you navigate the college territory more easily:
1. College students who are Texas residents and who meet certain hearing loss criteria, can apply to have their tuition waived at state-supported post-secondary schools.
This is through a Texas state program called the Certification of Deafness Tuition Waiver (CODTW) program. For more information, see https://hhs.texas.gov/services/disability/deaf-hard-hearing/tuition-waiver. I am thrilled to have helped 2 of our patients at The Center for Audiology qualify for this program this year!
2. Understand How Your Hearing Loss Affects You
Discuss the impact of your hearing loss with your audiologist. Different hearing loss profiles require different plans of care. Hearing aids alone may not always be sufficient if you struggle with background noise or distances. Use of remote microphones or FM systems, communication strategies, or alternative presentation of material may be required to enhance aided benefit.
3. Learn About and Use Your University's Resources
Register with the Disability Support Services at your university. You will be assigned an advisor who will ensure that you receive the accommodations you need in order to have equal access in the classroom.
Available accommodations may include priority registration, note taking services, the use of an FM system, CART (which stands for Communication Access Real-Time Translation), closed captioning on all videos that are shown during class and priority seating in the classroom.
4. Get to Know Your Professors
You may want to schedule an appointment with each professor during their office hours, or e-mail each professor in writing to let them know about your hearing loss and what accommodations you will be using. If you will be using an FM system, take the time to teach the professor about how to use the microphone transmitter that he/she will be using Individual professors may be more or less educated about hearing loss, and you can help make them more familiar with how to maximize your ability to hear them in the classroom.
5. Choose Your Seat Wisely
Plan to arrive early to class in order to choose a seat that will optimize your ability to hear. Most individuals with hearing loss rely on speechreading to help fill in the gaps of what they can't hear, and a seat toward the front will allow you to do that more easily. Avoid seats near the classroom door, windows, or near noisy fans or heating/cooling vents, as background noise can be distracting and/or can drown out the professor's voice.
6. Help Your Classmates Help You
Many people have no experience communicating with someone who has a hearing loss, and they may feel nervous about how to interact with you. Taking the time to explain to your close classmates a little bit about your hearing loss, and communication strategies that they can use to help you, will put them at ease, and open the door to good communication. For example, you can say, "I understand what you say much better if you face me when you speak, and when you don't cover your mouth when you speak," or, "It helps me a lot if you articulate your words and don't drop your voice at the end of a sentence."
Advocating for yourself throughout your college years will help you gain the most you can out of these formative years, and will help you set yourself up for greater success in your future career. We are also here to help advocate for you anytime you need us throughout your college years and beyond. The entire Center for Audiology staff wishes you the best of luck in your studies!