Academic Success of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Mainstream Higher Education

Author: Kirsten van den Heuij
LOT Number: 645
ISBN: 978-94-6093-430-8
Pages: 236
Year: 2023
1st promotor: prof. dr. M.M.R. Coene
2nd promotor: prof. dr. P.J.M. Govaerts
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The overarching goal of the work described in this dissertation is to get insight into academic performances and experiences of students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) in mainstream higher education and to what extent access to academic language affect their educational career.


In addition to general individual differences among students, the academic success of students who are DHH will also be affected by factors (in)directly related to their hearing loss. In this respect, first the higher educational listening contexts were evaluated by means of a questionnaire to assess the quality of the listening experiences of students and the acoustics were measured in a representative set of university classrooms. Furthermore, performance scores of students on language proficiency tests and non-verbal intelligence subtests were evaluated and finally, to get a more in-depth understanding of the perspectives and experiences of students who are DHH’s in mainstream higher education, a qualitative study was conducted.

The outcomes revealed that the current acoustic environment of Dutch higher education institutions is not optimal for learning. However, once enrolled in a higher educational program, students who are DHH perform equally well as their peers with typical hearing on cognitive and linguistic tests. This indicates that academic success in students who are DHH only partially depends on receptive linguistic capacities. Strong cognitive skills and/or developed coping mechanisms, might compensate for missed information in the auditive signal. Nevertheless, the promising academic performances of students who are DHH seem to have repercussions on their social and emotional well-being. 

The overarching goal of the work described in this dissertation is to get insight into academic performances and experiences of students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) in mainstream higher education and to what extent access to academic language affect their educational career.


In addition to general individual differences among students, the academic success of students who are DHH will also be affected by factors (in)directly related to their hearing loss. In this respect, first the higher educational listening contexts were evaluated by means of a questionnaire to assess the quality of the listening experiences of students and the acoustics were measured in a representative set of university classrooms. Furthermore, performance scores of students on language proficiency tests and non-verbal intelligence subtests were evaluated and finally, to get a more in-depth understanding of the perspectives and experiences of students who are DHH’s in mainstream higher education, a qualitative study was conducted.

The outcomes revealed that the current acoustic environment of Dutch higher education institutions is not optimal for learning. However, once enrolled in a higher educational program, students who are DHH perform equally well as their peers with typical hearing on cognitive and linguistic tests. This indicates that academic success in students who are DHH only partially depends on receptive linguistic capacities. Strong cognitive skills and/or developed coping mechanisms, might compensate for missed information in the auditive signal. Nevertheless, the promising academic performances of students who are DHH seem to have repercussions on their social and emotional well-being. 

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