You’ve packed your duvet, your acoustic guitar and have already had your going away party with your school friends. Your mum taught your how to use a washing machine and you know how to whip up a good spag bol. You’re already getting nervous about fresher's week. The start of your free, independent university life beckons.
But before you dive headfirst into the heady mix of meetups, student societies and many glossy advertisements you will no doubt be handed, be sure to take some time to make sure you get the same educational experience as everyone else. Unfortunately, for those with hearing loss, a little extra homework is necessary.
Luckily, most universities are already aware of the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. The Equality Act of 2010 requires education to be accessible to all students, whether you are at sixth-form or university. And to tackle the more general problem of students not being able to hear their lectures, universities are already retrofitting their lecture halls to make it easier to hear. This is done by installing panels that absorb sound and reduce reverb, or a PA system with speakers around the room.
Get to know what’s on offer at the university for those with hearing loss
Ideally, you’ll be reading this before you have decided on a university. Now you can visit each university you are interested in, to see if they have the correct technology. Do some research and find out what services exist for those with hearing loss. Here are some questions you can ask during the open day. Their answers will help you decide whether the university is a good fit for you.
What do student services offer?
What assistive listening devices exist on campus, and are they present for every classroom?
Do you provide real time captioning services?
Do you provide personal FM systems?
Do you provide note-takers or interpreters?
If you are already at the university, you can ask the same questions to the student services on campus. If there is a disability office, they may be able to provide free or discounted technology. Some schools even provide hearing aid accessories, if you are lucky. The last question on the list is not a mistake – some schools actually pay other students to write down notes which they then upload to the university website for all to access.
Get to know your local area
Once you’ve discovered what the university has to offer, it’s time to look further afield. If you are studying in different city, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the hearing services in your local area. Find out where your local NHS audiology services centre is located. You may need a check-up during term time and it helps to know where it is in advance. You will also need to know the closest place you can buy hearing aid batteries. Hearing aids tend to lose power at the most inconvenient times and it pays to know where you can quickly replace them in a pinch. Alternatively, set up a subscription service so you will receive them regularly. This is especially important if you are attending a campus-based university where access to goods and services can be limited.
In your Halls of Residence
It’s bound to come up at some point, but you should let your housemates know about your hearing loss sooner rather than later. They should know how you do things, the best ways to communicate with you, and reasons why you might not always respond immediately. The sooner they know your needs, the sooner you can all get to know each other.
One more thing to consider in dorms is safety. If you are in halls of residence, be sure to introduce yourself to the person in charge of safety to explain your hearing loss. Get acquainted with the emergency exits. Ask the safety warden about your options when it comes to fire alerts.
University is a time of experimentation. There’s no reason you can’t do more or less all of the activities on offer because of hearing loss. To those you meet during fresher’s week, be upfront and unashamed about your condition. You’ll surely find those around you are relieved to find someone to talk to! At the start of university, everyone is in the same boat and it’s the best time to meet new people. Don’t let your hearing loss get in the way!
For comprehensive hearing health services, visit a House of Hearing centre near you!