College is an exciting time for young adults as they gain independence and immerse themselves in a their education, but it can also come with struggles, especially for students with hearing loss.
Learning in the classroom requires a lot of attention, which can be exhausting for students. Students with hearing loss can often experience “concentration fatigue” from struggling to lip-read or listen to somebody for a long period of time.
“When I first began losing my hearing in elementary school, that was the start of what I call my ‘Swiss Cheese’ education,” says Karen Putz, a deaf author and advocate for hearing accessibility. “Every day, all day long, I strained to lipread and use my residual hearing in an attempt to access what was being said in the classroom. I studied every night to try and fill in the holes of what I missed during the day.”
Luckily, there is technology available to help hard-of-hearing students hear and learn better in the classroom – and it’s FREE to all qualified university students in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and various other countries, such as Japan.
In the U.S., this resource is requested directly through Disability Councilors. In the UK, it’s called the “Disabled Students Allowance.”
Unfortunately, not many students know about these free resources, and go through their college careers without having access to technology that could help them learn. Or worse, they are provided with technology that is not right for them.
“On my first day of class, I received an FM system and went to class, eager to learn and start this new chapter in my life,” says Kirsten Brackett, a hearing aid user who graduated in 2016. “Unfortunately, I ended up not liking my FM system. I found it hard to hear when other students participated in class and often my professor seemed too loud through the device. So, I ditched it. I told my professor that if I stayed near the front I would be able to hear him. But as classes got harder and lectures contained new words and concepts, classes quickly became more difficult.”
Kirsten says she never went back to her disability councilor after that experience, partially because of stigmas that came with using such technologies, but also because she didn’t know what other options were available.
Seven percent of college students are in need of hearing aids, but are unaware of the various hearing technology available to them, according to according to a 2011 study by the International Journal of Audiology. Even more students who have hearing aids aren’t using accessories that could make difficult listening situations, such as the classroom, easier to hear in.
Phonak has a variety of products specifically made for classroom settings, which are free to university students, in compliance with Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 & Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Included in these products are the Phonak Roger Pen, Phonak My Link and Phonak Roger Table Mic – all of which are FREE for qualified university students.
“In classrooms all over, deaf and hard of hearing students are going through their days with chunks of information missing from their instruction and educational experience,” Putz says.
Audiologists, hearing care professionals, teachers, parents and students themselves can change this pattern by knowing their rights. Hard-of-hearing students can achieve 100% communication access if they know what resources are available to them.
If a student knows they could benefit from such technology, all they have to do is visit their Disability Councelor on campus and request the products they would like.
Deaf comedian D.J. Demers, who attended university in Canada, says he received laptops through his university disability program, instead of technology such as the Roger Pen, which could have streamed his professors’ voices directly to his hearing aids.
Phonak Roger Pen technology allows students to understand 62% more in noise and over distance compared to people with no hearing loss.
D.J. has since graduated and has been able to follow his dreams of becoming a stand-up-comedian.
To help other university students follow their dreams, D.J. will help spread awareness that other students can obtain free hearing technology, such as the Phonak Roger Pen, to help them hear better in the classroom. For the month of October, D.J. will travel across the country in a National Disability Awareness Month campaign, called the “Here to Hear Tour.”
During the tour, D.J. will perform free stand-up comedy shows, meet with the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing communities and engage with fans through social media and daily vlogs on YouTube. The tour is sponsored by Phonak.
“I feel very fortunate to be embarking on this month-long comedy tour to help Phonak in their mission of destigmatizing hearing loss,” he says. “As I’ve gotten older (and dare I say wiser?) I’ve begun to acknowledge that my hearing aids are not a small part of who I am. They are a huge part of my identity. I still believe that I am more than my hearing aids, but I’m not ashamed to fully recognize their role in my life.”
If you have a college-age patient who is in need of hearing technology, you can help them get resources for free by following these four steps.
Follow the Here to Hear Tour throughout the month of October as deaf comedian D.J. Demers fights to break down stigmas of hearing loss through the power of laughter. www.HereToHearTour.com