Heading off to college is a rite of passage. For many it marks the first time that you are heading out on your own. Whether you go to college somewhere distant and new or choose to stay close to home, college marks a time to define yourself as an individual from your parents or the people who contributed to raising you. For many, you can expect lasting memories and important lessons. It can be scary at first as many new things are. Questions of who your friends will be, what classes you will take and what will be your career path can be intimidating for just about anyone at this stage of life. Add a hearing loss to this and it can feel very intimidating.
Commonly a disability that is associated with older adults, hearing loss can affect anyone at any age, including many college age students. In fact, according to the National Deaf Center, among college students enrolled in the academic year of 2015-2016, 19.5% had a disability. The issue with hearing loss in an educational setting is that is can greatly impact a person’s ability to follow along with class discussions and materials. The good news is that just about every college and university in the United States has materials and resources to help you succeed and excel in classrooms and lecture halls. Here are just a few tips to take advantage of all the resources your new school has to offer.
Research support groups on campus
It’s important to remember that you aren’t the first student to go to school with hearing loss. In fact, chances are you are not the only one currently on your campus with a hearing loss. Do your research ahead of time. It’s likely there are support groups in place to help you navigate the education system without feeling alone. Having contact with a student or two who has gone through your similar experience can help you identify and overcome common obstacles of college life.
Be your own advocate
Hearing loss is often described as an invisible disability because it’s not immediately identifiable by most people. However, we recommend being open about your disability rather than attempting to hide it. When you are open you create an environment where you can ask for help from your instructors, the institution and even your fellow students. When you enroll in your classes, be proactive by reaching out to your instructors to ask them for accommodations to help you succeed in their class. Each class format is slightly different so your instructor may have insight on methods which may best support you. Chances are that you are not the first hearing impaired student they’ve taught.
In addition, reach out to your school to take advantage of all the resources and accommodations they have to support you in your learning adventure. This can include talk to text technology, assistive listening devices, printed out class notes and in some cases ASL interpreters.
Let your fellow classmates know you have a hearing impairment and what they can do to communicate with you more effectively. This can be as simple as facing you and asking them to speak at a moderate speed and articulate when speaking to you in class or even after!
Stock up on supplies
You’ll find that your school will have many accommodations for your hearing loss, which they are required to provide under the are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, you most likely have been dealing with your hearing loss a while and know what works for you. If you are a hearing aid user or use an assistive listening device, make sure to come prepared with extra batteries, chargers, cleaning tools and maybe even a backup pair for an emergency. In addition, college is a time where you become in control of your own success. This means take plenty of notes and use the tools you’ve already cultivated to succeed in school with more ease.
College is a great time to learn and prepare for your future career, but it’s also a great time to have fun and even at times push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Don’t let your hearing loss hold you back from connecting and learning. If you are not actively addressing your hearing loss, taking the time before you arrive can give you an advantage to truly succeed which may impact your entire life and educational career. Contact us today to set up a hearing exam before you start college to make sure you have everything you need on your educational journey!