Studying with a hearing impairment

James Browne

James Browne is the Disability Adviser for Arts & Humanities at the University of York.

For those of us with hearing impairments, the ways in which study online may create some additional challenges. However, there are some practical steps you can take to improve your student experience.

Addressing common challenges


The T function of your hearing aids are a really powerful way to hear the most important audio in the room. Rooms equipped with a T (‘telecoil’) loop can broadcast audio directly from the lectern mic to your hearing aids. All you have to do is flick the switch on your aid/s to ‘T’.Most aids have this function so check that you fully understand how to use your aids to get the most out of them. Your University may be able to timetable rooms with T-loops for face-to-face teaching.

Live Note-taking

Of course, not all people with hearing impairments use hearing aids and T-loops are not always very useful for group discussions - following seminars can be very difficult.

Ask your disability service if they can arrange a digital note-taker for face-to-face discussions. They can type key points into a cloud based platform, such as a Google Doc, which you can access simultaneously whilst still at a safe distance!”

Online Lectures

Digital note-taking can also be used for online lectures and some platforms provide the function for captions to be manually entered into the screen content so you don’t have to look at two screens at once.

Online lectures provide other benefits. Most platforms let you select between lecture content and the camera of the lecturer - enabling easy lipreading. Using a split screen, or better still two screens, can be a big help. If you don’t have a spare screen for your main machine, you could try simultaneously logging on with your smartphone or tablet - but you might need to turn off the sound to avoid feedback.

Instead of relying on your laptop speakers, a good pair of over-the-ear headphones can dramatically improve your sound quality. Some systems, such as those offered by Phonak, can even transmit audio from your computer directly to your hearing aids.

Hopefully your university will have offered staff (and maybe students) guidance on lighting and suitable microphone equipment, but don’t be frightened to talk to your tutors if their image or audio are unclear. Your feedback will improve things for all students.

The key point is to talk to your University’s disability support service who can explore the best way to support your needs.

Look after your wellbeing

It is understandable to feel isolated and unsettled adjusting to new ways of learning. This can have a knock-on effect on your wellbeing and it's important to look after your mental health. Student Space has some very useful articles on looking after yourself and don’t hesitate to reach out to your university’s wellbeing services.

Articles on mental health & wellbeing

Page last reviewed: October 2022