Over the head headphones

Life as a deaf student at university

If there’s one thing to know about university, it’s that it involves a lot of talking. It’s a place for hearty debate and discussion, and sessions often involve listening to lecturers or getting stuck in yourself. Yet, for someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing like me, keeping up with these conversations isn’t always easy.

I take my seat in a lecture theatre as the sound of conversation, footsteps and rustling bags quieten down. We’re shown a video – except when played through speakers it only distorts the mumbling audio further. With no subtitles on screen either, I feel lost and confused, and that’s not the only aspect of student life which is difficult. I often struggle to understand specific accents as well.

Before stepping foot in the city of Lincoln as an undergraduate, I knew that I was going to need a bit of a helping hand with my studies. I had started to look into Disabled Students’ Allowances (a sum of money given to help those who need additional support), but, believing that this was reserved for those with a more severe hearing loss, I didn’t apply.

I had the University of Lincoln’s Student Wellbeing Centre to thank for telling me that that wasn’t the case. A brief meeting with one of their friendly advisors informed me that there were other forms of support which could help me out. I began working on an application, which was later approved – I had the support in place.

However, that did end up taking some time. There was a brief period whilst I waited for the confirmation without note-takers or recorders to hand. I remember experiencing concentration fatigue for the first time – where focussing so hard on a conversation tires you out mentally. I crashed onto the sofa as soon as I returned to my flat, confused as to why I was so tired when it was only 6pm.

That’s why it’s important to reach out for support when you need it, in plenty of time – and that doesn’t just apply to disabled students. At the busy times in the year, I’ve benefitted from having a speech-to-text reporter in lectures. Simply put, a writer with a specialist keyboard listens in to the session and types up everything that is being said. Essentially, it’s like live subtitles. Last year, I also had transcription support when it came to writing down recorded interviews. As with many types of support, they can be personalised to suit you and your course.

Over the summer, I’ll be starting to look ahead to my third and final year as an undergraduate, reassured that all the support that I need will be in place. However, what’s great is that the Student Wellbeing Centre on campus is always there should you need it.

Whether it’s support from the government or from the university itself, there’s always someone available to help make the necessary changes to your studies to make your student life the best it can be.

This article is featured on Learning at Lincoln.