Tales of a Hard of Hearing Woman in a Mainstream School System
Call me a nerd, but I love school. Maybe not the tests or papers, but the general concept of learning, I'm obsessed with! If I could get paid to just sit in a class and soak up information for the rest of my life, I would. Luckily for me, the traveling I'm doing right now is most definitely teaching me a lot!
Anyways, of course, school was never easy for me, but I was determined to excel. I was told once that I, as a hard of hearing individual, was working nearly twice as hard as my hearing peers. In other words, my brain has to work in overdrive to make sure I am comprehending the information as much as possible. Often times, and most obviously, I struggled to hear all of the information my teachers presented. This pertained mostly to information given that was not laid out on the white board, in the textbook, or on powerpoint slides. I would freak out because, especially at the university levels, many teachers refused to repeat themselves and/or would use that specific material as a test question. I would frantically ask my neighbor for clarification, but most often, I found friends and a study-group where we could exchange notes. Though not as often as I should, I learned to swallow my pride and talk to my teachers/professors if I felt like I was at a disadvantage. They were always accommodating and would do their best to make sure I got the information I needed to succeed.
For instance, in my advanced Spanish classes, many of our tests, rightfully so, involved listening to a recording and answering questions. My Spanish teacher, once the exam started and everyone was focused on the paper in front of them, would bring me a transcript of the recording. Often times, I felt like I was cheating and could see eyes looking at me. Later on, once I really accepted how much I relied on lip-reading to 'hear', I realized how vital it was for me to have the written form in front of me to be anywhere near capable of answering the test questions.
In a fair amount of my grade school classes, my teachers would use a microphone. It helped at times, but I always made a point to sit in the front of the classroom where I had full vision of the teacher's face which was way more beneficial to me than the microphone. This being said, I almost always let my teachers know during the first day or two that I relied on lip-reading so if possible, it would be great if they could face forward as much as possible.
Once I got to college and some of my classes were a bit bigger, I opted to have a notetaker. It was helpful in some ways because it allowed me to focus on what was being said instead of making sure I was writing everything down (thus making it easy to miss a vital piece of information), but as someone who retains information by writing it down, I didn't always prefer this assistance. It was great, though, to know I had that option, and my university was really good about letting me know what resources I had access to. I think one of the best things I had access to was the ability to sign up for classes before everyone else. This way I could sign up for teachers who had received good reviews and by association were usually more receptive to my needs.
One specific case was for a music history class that I had to take for my music business certificate. The teacher went out of his way to pose a few different options for the listening tests. I'm stubborn and was determined to take the tests just like everyone else, but on occasion, I would take him on his offer to take the test in a private room where I could repeat the song as many times as I needed outside of the normally allotted two times. For this class, however, I just studied maybe a little more than the average person by listening to the songs we'd studied on repeat and having the lyrics in front me as I listened so I could learn the words.
I think above all my desire to learn was the biggest thing that helped solve any issues I ran into as a hard of hearing individual. The speed bumps I encountered seemed like small obstacles for the reward of learning new information!
PS - Here's a link to a great resource my alma mater, UGA, has put together on tips for teaching deaf and hard of hearing students!