Seventeen percent of adults in the United States suffer from some degree of hearing loss, and this impairment can pose considerable personal, professional, social, and psychological challenges, often, to people reluctant to seek help (Hearing Loss Association, 2011). Post-secondary faculty members with hearing loss are among us, and most of them navigate their professional lives silently. Support for hearing loss is easily accessible for students on our campuses, but there is an apparent gap in knowledge about and utilization of support and services for faculty members with hearing loss.
This study examines the barriers to full participation in the academy for faculty members with hearing impairments. This exploratory, descriptive study, framed in the minority model and the social model of disability, investigates the marginalization, isolation, coping mechanisms, and needs of faculty members with hearing loss at a public research university.
An email invitation to participate in the study was sent to 3,104 faculty members with teaching responsibilities, employed sixty-six percent time, or more. The invitation asked the participants to think about their hearing and how it affects teaching in the classroom, participation in departmental discussions, interactions with students and colleagues, and interactions at professional and social events. The invitation included the following questions:
Do you have to concentrate more intensely to follow conversations?
Do telephone conversations become more problematic because of your hearing?
Do background noises interfere with your hearing?
Do you find yourself asking ―Pardon me?‖ in and out of the classroom more frequently? Is it becoming more difficult to hear in the classroom or at departmental meetings and social gatherings?
If the recipients answered ―yes‖ to any of the questions, they were encouraged to continue with the inquiry; a link was provided to the web-based survey.
The survey consisted of 39 questions about hearing loss, relationships with colleagues and administrators, knowledge of accommodations and services, budgets from which accommodations are paid, and if, how, and when that knowledge is communicated. Of the 144 faculty members who began, 84 completed the survey. The results are based on the 84 completed surveys.
The respondents were mature professionally and chronologically. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents who disclosed their ages were 46 years of age or older and 74 percent of those who disclosed their ranks were either associate, full, endowed, or Regents professors. Seventy-five percent of the respondents said their hearing losses were either mild or moderate (on a four point scale: minimal, mild, moderate, or profound). Two percent of the respondents identified with Disability Services. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents said that resources for faculty members with hearing loss were not discussed at any departmental orientations or meetings.
The quantitative and qualitative comments of faculty members suggest that acoustics in classrooms and meeting rooms are problematic for many. Other results, based on the responses of faculty members with hearing impairments, identify some of the system wide changes that would benefit faculty members with hearing loss – including more frequent discussions about hearing loss at college and department levels, more knowledge about support and resources to accommodate hearing loss, class and meeting rooms with better acoustics, and more choices in telephone systems. The results suggest that administrators need to be coached about how to discuss hearing loss, support, accommodations, and budgets. The study also found that hearing colleagues need to better understand the experiences and the challenges of their peers who have hearing impairments. The study concludes with recommendations that will help all faculty members, especially those with hearing loss, maximize their engagement in the academy.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. November 2011. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Professor Darwin Hendel. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 179 pages, appendices A-B.
Roufs, Kathleen S..
Members of faculty with hearing impairments in academia: what are their needs?.
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