Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program

Polk County Public Schools provide educational services to approximately 100 students identified as deaf or hard-of-hearing. The Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program offers a full continuum of services to meet both academic and communication needs identified on a student’s individual education plan (IEP). We provide the educational services and technology necessary to assist our students in developing age-appropriate communication skills in their preferred mode of communication, whether it be spoken, signed or a combination of these.  Eligibility for the program is based on both a documented hearing loss and educational need. Students aged 3 through 22 years can receive services through the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Program.  Students can be served through a variety of service delivery models, including self-contained, resource, or itinerant services:

Need Help?

Stephanie Gardner

 Senior Manager 

Self contained: Students attend designated schools in the county where a certified teacher of the deaf/hard-of-hearing provides the majority of instruction for academics, and mainstreaming as appropriate.

Resource: Students are in regular education classrooms for a portion of the day and may receive support from a certified teacher of the deaf/hard-of-hearing or an exceptional student education teacher for subjects as needed.

Itinerant: An itinerant teacher certified to teach deaf/hard-of-hearing students provides consultative or direct services to students who need additional support or remediation in language, listening and advocacy skills, as well as supplemental instruction in academic subject matter. In addition, students may need assistance on the operation and care of their amplification devices.

Currently, our deaf/hard-of-hearing classrooms have a low student-teacher ratio and are typically staffed with one qualified teacher and one paraeducator. Sign language interpreting services provide students access to classroom curriculum as well as extracurricular activities. Audiological services and technology are provided to meet the students’ needs.

Different Types of Hearing Loss:

Conductive Hearing Loss

This is a loudness disorder created by some form of blockage that prevents sound from reaching the functioning inner ear. Often this type of loss can be restored or improved by removal of the cause of the blockage — wax buildup, fluid or infection. However, if damage is done or scar tissue remains, the loss may not be reversed. In some cases sound is not transmitted normally through the ear canal due to malformation of the outer ear or middle ear; instead the sound is carried through the bone in the skull, by way of a bone conduction hearing aid or a BAHA processor, a process called bone conduction.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This is a disorder that involves both distortion and loudness. It is a permanent loss that cannot be repaired surgically. It is often called “nerve damage” and is caused by external factors; however, forms of congenital hearing impairments/deafness that are genetic types can occur at birth. Department of Otolaryngology at Columbia University refers to it as hearing “loss caused by abnormalities in the cochlea, such as by damage from noise trauma, viral infection, drug toxicity, or Meniere’s disease.”

Mixed Hearing Loss

This is hearing loss that combines the characteristics of conductive and sensorineural loss. Hearing loss is caused by an abnormality in the auditory system. Many types of hearing loss have known origins — either genetics or disease factors. However there are many times when the origins are unknown. Hearing loss may occur after birth or may develop suddenly or over time, and may be partial or total and in both ears (bilaterally) or just one (unilaterally).

The Audiogram

The Audiogram is used to explain your child’s hearing loss. It is a graph of the softest sounds they can hear. The graph is designed like a piano keyboard, with low pitches (Hz) to high pitches from left to right. The soft sounds are at the top and the loud sounds are at the bottom. The loudness is measured at the bottom. The loudness is measured in decibels (dB) and the pitches are measured in hertz (Hz). Hearing loss is NOT usually measured in percentages. Click here to view the Audiogram.


Most importantly always encourage independence and help your child develop a healthy and positive self-concept. Be positive.

1. Follow audiological/medical recommendations.

2. Check your child’s amplification devices (cochlear implants and hearing aids) to make sure batteries are active and device is in good working order.

3. Keep ear molds and hearing aids clean.

4. Interact positively with your child as much as possible.

5. Learn the best way to communicate with your child. Learn sign language if appropriate.

6. Reinforce language: Talk naturally and often with your child, take time to listen.

7. Read often with your child at home.

8. Work with your child’s teachers to find out what resources are available.

9. Learn about agencies, organizations and websites which provide information for support for families.