Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss

Adapting the school environment to support the learner with hearing loss

Listening and learning in the classroom can be very challenging for students with hearing loss.

Accommodations for Test Taking

My daughter took the PSAT one year without accommodations, and then the following year with accommodations.  Only a 1% difference in math and reading scores, but 16% change in language section with the additional time and one year more academic growth.
Mom of a successful high schooler with hearing loss.

High stakes tests for higher education entry have their own set of guidelines:
AP –

Sample Statement Justifying Extra Time for Test Taking:

Many students with hearing loss will need extra time to complete  examinations. Hearing loss effects an individual’s ability to process information, including written information, at the same speed as peers without hearing loss. This is unrelated to the individual’s cognitive ability. Slower processing  of information will occur even if the student is ‘trying his best’ and impacts the effort required, and fatigue resulting from, test-taking.  It will often take a student with hearing loss longer to read the text and  take longer for them to pull the information from memory.  Extra time typically varies from 25-50% more time allowed. More time may be needed if there is sufficient evidence of necessity. 

The amount of extra time requested for test-taking should not be based on guesswork or supposition. It needs to be based on evidence of the individual’s known optimal performance based on data from mock examinations.  For example, a student may be able to access test information more efficiently (similar to hearing students) when the test items are read to them, rather than when they are required to read the items. This may also be true for students who are fluent in sign language or other forms of visual communication.  There may be some examinations which have, as a goal, the determination of how well a student is able to perform within a set time period.  While this is valuable for comparison of the student’s ability to work within time constraints as compared to typically hearing peers, it is not a representation of their actual ability to complete items when appropriately accommodated for test-taking limitations secondary to hearing loss.

Exam Accommodations

Typical suggestions for assessment accommodations are:
a. Writing tests/exams in a quiet room.
b. Provision of more time for the writing of exams.
c. Requesting a live voice (reader) instead of a digitally or computer generated voice or CD-rom/MP3 format.
Live Voice Reader: It is critical that students with hearing loss NOT be assessed using recorded speech (CD, MP3, etc). The rationale behind this accommodation is that students with hearing loss:
a. Use speech reading to support what they hear.
b. Use intonation/inflections of speech to enhance speech understanding.
c. Require a slower rate of speech which cannot be adjusted on CD.
d. may require repetition to ensure equal access.
Listening Effort and Recorded Speech
The listening effort required of students who are hard of hearing is substantially greater than their peers often resulting in reduced retention, fatigue and attention challenges.  When hard of hearing students have to listen to recorded speech they are at an even greater disadvantage because they lose visual cues, vocal intonation/inflection as well as opportunities for repetition. Additionally,  the way speech is recorded is not optimal for students listening with hearing loss. All of these factors create gaps that need to be “filled in” by the hard of hearing student which in turn increases the required listening effort relative to their peers.  In addition, they need to achieve this through a damaged cochlea. Sound exhausting? It is and your hard of hearing student has to do this while still engaging in the retrieval of information, the processing of complex questioning as well as the stress of test-taking. Listening with a hearing loss while simultaneously listening to recorded speech would present significant challenges to young learners.
Source of Exam Accommodations and paragraph on listening effort is credited to Krista Yuskow.

Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss

This information is provided as a list of accommodations and classroom modifications for the IEP or 504 Plan team to consider as they discuss what is needed to provide maximal access to the general curriculum and meet the learning needs of the student with hearing loss.

This is not an exhaustive list. Students will vary in terms which of these items are necessary and appropriate to support school progress commensurate with the student’s abilities. Educational settings vary in the extent to which they provide accommodations and modifications to students with hearing loss.

It is important for the IEP or 504 planning team to include a professional with expertise in the educational needs of students with hearing loss so that the unique access and learning needs of the student with hearing loss are understood and can be appropriately accommodated.                         Printable handout of this information

Accommodations to Consider to Address the Access and Learning Needs of Students with Hearing Loss

Amplification Options:

___Personal hearing device (hearing aid, cochlear implant, tactile device)

___Personal FM system (hearing aid + FM)

___FM system/auditory trainer (without personal hearing aid)

___Walkman-style FM system

___Sound-field FM system

Assistive Devices:


___TV captioned

Communication Accommodations:

___Specialized seating arrangements

___Obtain student’s attention prior to speaking

___Reduce auditory distractions (background noise)

___Reduce visual distractions

___Enhance speech reading conditions (avoid hands in front of face, mustaches well-trimmed, no gum chewing)

___Present information in simple structured, sequential manner

___Clearly enunciate speech

___Allow extra time for processing information

___Repeat or rephrase information when necessary

___Frequently check for understanding

Physical Environment Accommodations:

___Noise reduction (carpet & other sound absorption materials)

___Specialized lighting

___Room design modifications

___Flashing fire alarm

Instructional Accommodations:

___Noise reduction (carpet & other sound absorption materials)

___Use of visual supplements (projected materials, whiteboard, charts, vocabulary lists, lecture outlines)

___Captioning or scripts for announcements, television, videos, or movies

__  Speech-to-text translation captioning (i.e., computer on desk)

_  _Educational interpreter (ASL, signed English, cued speech, oral)

___Buddy system for notes, extra explanations/directions

___Check for understanding of information

___Down time / break from listening

___Extra time to complete assignments

___Step-by-step directions

___Note taker

Curricular Modifications:

___Modify reading assignments (shorten length, adapt or eliminate phonics assignments)

___Modify written assignments (shorten length, adjust evaluation criteria)

___Pre-tutor vocabulary

___Provide supplemental materials to reinforce concepts

___Provide extra practice

___Alternative curriculum

Evaluation Modifications:

___Reduce quantity of tests or test items

___Use alternative tests

___Provide reading assistance with tests

___Allow extra time

Other Considerations:

___Supplemental instruction (speech, language, pragmatic skills, auditory, speech reading


___Sign language instruction

___Transition / Vocational services

___Family support

___Deaf/Hard of Hearing role models

___Recreational/Social opportunities

___Financial assistance

___Monitor progress periodically by a specialist in Deaf/Hard of Hearing


Source: Johnson, Benson, & Seaton. (1997).Educational Audiology Handbook. Appendix 11-A, p.448. Singular publishing Group, Inc.

Minor adaptations by Karen L. Anderson, PhD

Posted August, 2012