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Including Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the General Education Classroom Research Paper

Pages:15 (4479 words)



Topic:General Education

Document Type:Research Paper



This paper provides an extensive review of literature on deaf students and deafness. The purpose of the literature review is to obtain an understanding of what deafness is, what causes deafness, how it occurs, and what deaf culture is like for deaf people. The review identifies schools and programs that are used to help the deaf community and it also examines the outcomes of deaf students in general education. It discusses whether deaf students are better served in an inclusive environment or whether they are better served in a deaf community based learning environment. It examines the characteristics of hearing loss and how there are different tools and ways to treat hearing loss when it occurs in cases where reversing the hearing loss is possible. In some cases, reversal is not possible but surgical solutions may exist.


One of the more remarkable qualities of deaf culture is that those who are deaf or hard of hearing look at the other person with whom they are speaking. In hearing culture, it is not uncommon for people who are speaking to one another to look away from one another when speaking, to break or even avoid eye contact, or to use technology such as phones to communicate. Deaf culture is much more dependent upon face-to-face communication and the use of signs—pictures—to convey meaning, whereas in hearing culture, people think generally in terms of words.

Deaf culture is an intriguingly unique culture in the world for this reason and it is one that I am fascinated by. In seeking to promote inclusivity in the classroom, I believe it is important to understand other cultures and deaf culture is one that often receives little attention. Gaining insight into how the deaf and hard of hearing experience their reality can be helpful to educators as they honor their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. The more cultural competence that educators obtain, the more likely they will be to exert a positive influence on others.

The deaf community is one that has often been overlooked in popular culture, it is worth an investigation. However, in recent years there have been some steps taken towards shining light on this community in different artistic ways. The 2014 Ukrainian film The Tribe was a dialogue-free film featuring deaf actors using Ukrainian sign language without subtitles and was celebrated by critics for creating a unique cinematic experience for viewers unfamiliar with what life is like for the deaf community. Todd Haynes’ 2017 film Wonderstruck focused on a deaf child and a hard of hearing child. In 2020, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) plans to release The Eternals, which features the first deaf superhero in the MCU. As deafness is beginning to receive more attention in popular media and culture, it can be helpful to understand what deafness is in reality.

Definition of Terms

· Communication Disability—an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts or verbal, nonverbal and graphic symbol systems, which can be manifested in hearing, language use and speech

· Deafness—a lack of or deficiency in the sense of hearing

· Deaf Community—members have their own social and behavioral characteristics but do not view themselves as impaired

· Deaf Culture—the set of values, social beliefs, traditions, customs, shared communities, behaviors, art, and history informed by the experience of deafness and in which the participants of that experience use sign language as the main method of communication

· Hard of Hearing—having a defective or impaired but functional sense of hearing

· Hearing Impairment—unable to hear well

Review of Literature

The History of Deafness/Hard of Hearing

The first free public school for the deaf was created in 1760 by a French Catholic priest. Prior to that, it was a Catholic Benedictine in the 17th century who focused on developing a method for teaching deaf students: his name was Pedro Ponce de Leon. In 1788, the first French sign language dictionary was published. In the 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell, who had a hard of hearing mother, started the Volta Bureau School for teaching hearing impaired children.

At the end of the 19th century, the first hearing aids were developed. A century later, the very first cochlear implants were being tested. The cochlear implant, also known as the Bionic Ear, was pioneered in development by Professor Graeme Clark in Australia (1960s) and first successfully used in 1978 (Hill, 2019). This technology can help deaf people to hear speech and can assist them in learning to speak, and currently more than 13,000 children use the Bionic Ear (Hill, 2019). These implants consist of an electronic element that is surgically implanted into the ear: it comes with a small, exterior microphone that goes around the ear, along with a speech processor, a transmitter and a sender/receiver.

The primary means of communication for the deaf, however, remains sign language. The most widely used system is the American Sign Language system. It grew out of a combination of the signs used by the deaf community situated in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; the French Sign Language system, and signs developed at the Royal Institution for the Deaf. Gallaudet established the first school for the deaf in the U.S. The National College for the Deaf and Dumb was established by Gallaudet’s son in 1864. These schools were the first to use American Sign Language.

While deafness is often considered as a handicap, there are many celebrated deaf people who have achieved much. Helen Keller, for instance, was born both deaf and blind, and she learned to communicate thanks to an innovative signing technique taught to her by Anne Sullivan. Keller went on to become a famous lecturer. The sign language system used in baseball was developed by a deaf ballplayer. There are also numerous artists and professionals who have succeeded in spite of deafness (Arizona Office for Americans with Disabilities, 2007).

Deafness and IDEA


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…be improved. The problem is that in many cases these supportive services are not available in a very meaningful or substantial way. Usually it is merely the bare minimum of services in order for the school to meet state and federal guidelines as dictated by IDEA.

Another outcome is that deaf students tend to score lower in social competence than hearing students (Wauters & Knoors, 2007). They tend to be more socially withdrawn than hearing students when in a mixed environment. This could be one of the drawbacks of inclusion, as the deaf students finds himself lacking a strong social support system that would otherwise be found in a deaf community schooling environment. However, Wauters and Knoors (2007) also showed that deaf students do not experience marginalization or exclusion from peers; on the contrary, they show that peers are generally accepting of deaf students and that friendships are stable over time.

Still, as Wauters and Knoors (2007) point out, when deaf and hard of hearing students transfer to college level, they tend to lack the skills to make that transfer successfully. School performance may be sufficient and peer relationships stable, but most are not prepared sufficiently to handle the transition or to make the most of the opportunity. Too many fall through the cracks as the researchers show.

Teacher preferences tend to be for inclusion as this is the general trend in most schools today; however, there is also the sense that deaf and hard of hearing students would benefit from a support system within a deaf community educational environment and if this is something that is available, it is typically discussed between parents and teachers to see if it is a viable option or one that would be in the best interest of the student.

Summary of Review of Literature

The literature shows that deaf culture is not something that deaf people are ashamed of: they see deafness as a way of life and not as a disability. The deaf community is supportive and takes advantage of supportive tools and technologies that facilitates their ability to interact with others. The deaf community and culture often overlaps with other cultures and communities, so it is not as if deafness is a phenomenon that is isolated geographically. However, there are schools and programs for the deaf that typically provide opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing students to learn in a deaf community environment.

Still, deaf and hard of hearing students are one of the disabilities that are included under IDEA, meaning that the hearing world views deafness as a disability—which naturally creates a distinction in terms of perspective between hearing persons and deaf persons. Teachers and schools tend to be inclusive towards deaf students, but depending on the support systems they have in place they may not be able to offer the kind of support the deaf need. Inclusivity is welcome and wanted when it can be fulfilled effectively, however.


Including deaf…

Sample Source(s) Used


Arizona Office for Americans with Disabilities. (2007). Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Retrieved from

Curhan, G., & Curhan, S. (2016). Epidemiology of hearing impairment. In Hearing Aids (pp. 21-58). Springer, Cham.

Gallaudet University. (2019). Retrieved from

Hill, M. (2019). Embryology Sensory - Hearing Abnormalities. Retrieved from

Hyde, M., Nikolaraizi, M., Powell, D., & Stinson, M. (2016). Critical factors toward the Inclusion of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in higher education. Diversity in deaf education, 441-472.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (2006). Retrieved from

Padden, C. A. & Humphries, T. (2005). Inside Deaf Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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