Indiana Daily Student

Modern technology helps students with hearing loss accommodate in the classroom

<p>D.J. Demers performs Oct. 10 in the Whittenberger Auditorium. Demers performed his stand-up comedy set at no cost to the listeners. Demers' comedy centers on his observations and experiences while living with and without his hearing aids.</p>

D.J. Demers performs Oct. 10 in the Whittenberger Auditorium. Demers performed his stand-up comedy set at no cost to the listeners. Demers' comedy centers on his observations and experiences while living with and without his hearing aids.

During deaf comedian DJ Demers' performance last week at IU, a man sitting in the fourth row used a Phonak Roger pen, which hung around his neck, to stream Demers’ voice directly into his hearing aids so he could fully hear the performance.

Some audience members said that they had never seen the Roger pen hearing technology outside of the performance. But through IU’s resources, it is available to any students with hearing loss who may need it.

“Many students are unaware of the resources available to them, so they struggle to hear in the classroom,” said Jill von Bueren, community manager for Demers. “This can cause emotional distress, concentration fatigue, poor grades and more.”

Currently, only two students at IU are using closed-captioning technology. Despite their availability, no students currently use an ASL interpreter. 

Shirley Stumpner, director of the Disability Services for Students, said the biggest challenge for students with hearing loss on campus is not with the technology, but with those who are struggling and have not yet reached out for help. 

“Students don’t want to feel different than their peers or don’t feel like they need help, so they don’t reach out,” she said.

Some students don’t even know they have hearing loss.

“A lot of the time, you think others are having the same problem as you, but they’re not,” Stumpner said.

Stumpner said they are always looking to help students overcome obstacles through the Phonak device and other hearing technology available, but only after they reach out. Students can contact the Disability Services for Students over the phone, on the website or through a walk-in appointment at their office.

“Our job at DSS is to remove any extra barriers that students with hearing loss might face,” Stumpner said. “Even a case of mild hearing loss can affect a person greatly.”

Although the comedy performance only highlighted the use of the Phonak device, there is a handful of options available for students in the classroom with hearing loss. What the student chooses to use usually depends on the severity of his or her hearing loss, Stumpner said.

“Before we even suggest any possible solutions to the student, we need to determine how serious it is,” she said. “Some cases can be solved by simply sitting at the front of the classroom, but some need the help of hearing aids or even closed captioning.”

In the use of closed captioning, teachers will wear a lavalier microphone that will immediately display their words in text form on the student’s laptop. Stumper said this method can be very helpful to students, but can become troublesome when videos are displayed in class lectures.

“Like Siri understands your speech only some of the time, generic closed captioning on a Youtube video isn’t always going to be accurate,” Stumpner said.

For this reason, collaboration with lecturers ahead of time is imperative for those students, she said.

Many students are also not comfortable enough using ASL fluently, Stumpner said. 

Debbie Gessinger, advisor for the ASL club at IU, said that the club aims to make students more comfortable using ASL so that they can have an extra aid along with their hearing technology. Even for students without hearing loss, Gessinger said it is important for all people to be able to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing students and learn about deaf culture.  

“ASL is one of the most used languages in the world, and it’s spreading like wildfire,” Gessinger said. She is deaf and uses a video relaying service to talk over the phone.

The club, along with exercises to improve their ASL skills, participates in field trips to deaf schools and does community service together.

“We want to make it easier for students to use ASL in the classroom and learn about deaf culture at the same time,” she said. “We want to provide a community where students with hearing loss can feel comfortable.”

Stumpner encourages all students to reach out to the Speech and Hearing Clinic at IU to get their hearing checked, even if they do not think they have hearing loss or are uncomfortable with the idea.

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