Approximately one Australian in ten has significant hearing loss; around 30,000 of these are profoundly deaf and use Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as their first language. People with profound hearing loss usually prefer to be referred to as Deaf rather than hearing impaired. They see their deafness, language (Auslan) and culture as a positive part of their identity rather than as a disability.
The impact of impairment depends on the type, extent and timing of the hearing loss. Some students will have lost hearing over a period of time, as a result, for example, of ageing or hereditary conditions. Others may have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of workplace noise, or have the condition tinnitus, a high-pitched ringing noise in the ear. Some will have had their hearing enhanced, though not entirely restored, with cochlea implants or hearing devices. Students with a hearing impairment may experience difficulty with certain sound frequencies and have difficulties when there is significant background noise.
Students who were deaf from birth or as the result of illness in childhood may lip-read and/or use sign language (Auslan). A student who uses Auslan as a first language of communication may have difficulty with the grammatical and syntactical structure of English and have a limited vocabulary. Some Deaf students are non-verbal while others may speak differently as they cannot hear their own voices.
Deaf students and hearing-impaired students may require accommodations and assistive devices to facilitate access to education - an individual needs assessment will determine this. Accommodations may be as simple as preferential seating or as complex as wireless assistive listening devices in the classroom.