A group of sixth graders at George Washington Middle School attend physical education class three afternoons a week with Ms. Cooper, who has taught physical education for more than 10 years. She has just instructed them to practice dribbling and shooting basketballs when a new student and two adults come into the gym. The student, using sign language, introduces himself through an interpreter who says, "Hello, Ms. Cooper. My name is Josh. I just enrolled here and was told to join this PE class." Ms. Cooper is surprised and confused; she had not been informed that she would have a new student, let alone a deaf student. She asks Josh if he is hearing impaired, and Josh signs, "No, I am DEAF," to one of his interpreters, who relays the message to Ms. Cooper. Ms. Cooper is unsure how to respond; she is naive about deafness and Deaf culture. Josh signs, "Ms. Cooper, if you are uncomfortable having a deaf student, it will take some time to adjust. However, I think you will enjoy having me in your class." Ms. Cooper nods, speechless. All she can think is, "What am I going to do?"
John is one of many students in publie school today who are both deaf and hard-of-hearing based on level of hearing loss. (For reader clarity, the term deaf used within this article is all-inclusive and includes students with any level of hearing loss, including those above 55dB [which would classify them as deaf] and those with greater residual hearing and losses below 55dB [hard-of-hearing1). The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA, 2011) has stated that 1.2% of all school-age students receive support services for hearing loss. Approximately 85% of all deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the United States are educated in public school programs, and 43% spend most of the school day in general education classrooms (Reed, Antia, & Kreimeyer, 2008). It is considered best practice that Ms. Cooper, as one of josh's educators, is aware of Deaf culture, Josh's communication needs, and the modifications that will ensure success for Josh and his hearing peers. Whereas we usually use person-first language when describing individuals who have disabilities (e.g., person who is deaf, rather than deaf person), the term Deaf with a capital D is used by Deaf people who take pride in their own specific language and culture. In this situation, the term Deaf person is appropriate, because these individuals see Deafness as a vital part of their identity, as opposed to being "deaf," which indicates a disability (Hodge, Lieberman, & Murata, 2012). In other words, Deaf = Culture and deaf = disability.
Deaf culture has all the elements of any other unique culture: language (American Sign Language, or ASL), history, arts, literature, and sports (Berke, 2011). There are a variety of types and causes of hearing loss.
Types and Causes of Hearing Loss
The term deafness refers to a hearing loss severe enough that speech is indiscernible even with amplification. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 defines deafness as a hearing loss so severe that a child's difficulty processing linguistic information through hearing (with or without amplification) adversely affects his or her educational performance (IDEA, 2004).
There are three major causes of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Conductive hearing loss is when sound is not transmitted well to the inner ear. This is similar to a radio that plays only at a low volume; there is no distortion of the sound, but words are faint. Most deaf students with conductive loss have intelligible speech (Lieberman, 2011). Hearing aids are usually effective for making meaning out of sound (Job Accommodation Network, 2010).
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or cochlea is damaged, or if there is damage to the neural pathway from the inner ear or retro-cochlea to the brain. This kind of …