According to the U.S. Census (http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p70-73.pdf), almost 8 million Americans (3.8%) over the age of 14 have difficulty hearing conversation, even when wearing a hearing aid. Hearing loss can be in one or both ears. A person is hard of hearing if he or she has a partial or moderate loss that results in hearing only those sounds that are louder or are within a particular frequency range (which may or may not coincide with the frequencies used in speech). Hearing aids can assist people with some forms of hearing loss, though they are used by the majority of people who are hard of hearing due to funding, stigma, or other reasons. A person is deaf if he or she has more significant hearing loss. Additional background on communication impairments can be found in the SciTrain modules.
A speech impairment interferes with a personís ability to produce speech sounds. A person with a speech impairment may not be able to express speech sounds properly (e.g., dysarthria, including slurred speech), have difficulty with fluency and the flow of speech (e.g., stuttering), or have a voice disorder impacting vocal quality (e.g., hoarseness, breathy voice). Speech may be unintelligible, or not understandable.
Language disabilities are also part of communication impairments. Language disorders can affect both verbal and nonverbal language. A person with a language disability may have difficulty expressing ideas, use words out of context, and have trouble following directions. For example, aphasia, sometimes occurring after a stroke, is a loss of previously learned communication skills, resulting in impaired expression or comprehension of written or spoken language. In this resource, we will address language disabilities primarily in the section on cognitive impairments, however some of the following accommodation ideas may be appropriate.
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