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Hearing impairment

Field report by Ellen Brinker (student and research assistant at the University of Cologne)

My name is Ellen Brinker and I am studying Master Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Cologne with a focus on prevention and vocational rehabilitation of people with hearing impairment, currently I am in my 3rd semester.

I am hard of hearing and wear a hearing aid on the left side and a cochlear implant (hearing prosthesis, which is able to take over the functions of the damaged parts in the inner ear) on the right side. When I wear my hair loose, my impairment is not visible, but when I put it together and my hearing aids are exposed, my impairment is visible. I have also found that many people do not notice my hearing aids even though they are exposed. This shows that such things are not noticeable at first glance, but only if you look more closely. In addition, I also speak German so that many people are surprised when I talk about my impairment.

expand: Hoerbeeintraechtigung
Bild: Monika Wisniewska/

In my everyday life as a student, it is difficult for me when group work is due, because of the many group participants* and the resulting noise level, as well as the rapid change of words and topics, I can no longer keep up and read lips. You can imagine how difficult it can be to read lips in a group all the time. In addition, many people do not have a clean mouth image and speak unclearly or too softly, which makes it even more difficult for me. It would make my daily study life easier if the lecturers made all the slides for a seminar/lecture available and if all the slides received sufficient information. In group work, it would help me if the groups were smaller, not mixed up or loud enough. It would also help me if I could read the notes of my fellow students during the seminar or lecture. I have found out that it helps me the most if I can work on everything at home in peace and quiet and ask my fellow students* if I have any problems. In general, I don't have to do a lot of re-work, because I understand a lot acoustically in the seminar. Nevertheless, I sometimes wish for more understanding from my fellow students, because many of them keep forgetting that I am hard of hearing and I have to point this out to them again and again. In the long run this becomes quite exhausting, but I also have understanding for it, because my impairment is often not noticeable.

I work as a research assistant at the University of Cologne. Despite my hearing loss I am as capable as any normal hearing person to do this job. Through this job I have grown both humanely and character-wise and have been encouraged in my chances for my professional future.

I like to study at the University of Cologne because my degree program has a strong focus on people with disabilities and the lecturers are very helpful and trained in dealing with students with disabilities.

In numbers...
Among the students for whom hearing and/or speech impairments during their studies have the greatest impact (a total of approx. 2.8% of all students with impairments of the students surveyed in the best2 survey in Germany (n = 20,897), 69% are hearing impaired, 27% speech/language impaired and 10% deaf. The special evaluation of the University of Cologne for the best2 survey speaks of 1.5% of those surveyed (n = 952 only UzK) for whom hearing/speech impairment has the greatest impact on their studies (NRW = 2.4% with n=5,436).

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