How do you know if a child’s hearing loss has adversely affected his educational performance, and thus is eligible for IDEA?
Neither IDEA nor 504 specifically answers this question, but U.S. Department Education regulations and policy give us some parameters.
In a policy letter, the Department has clarified that the term "educational performance" is not limited to academic performance. Whether a [disability] adversely affects a child's educational performance must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the unique needs of a particular child and not based only on discrepancies in age or grade performance in academic subject areas . . . IDEA and the final regulations . . . state that in conducting an evaluation, the public agency must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information. Therefore, IDEA and the regulations clearly establish that the determination about whether a child is a child with a disability is not limited to information about the child's academic performance. Furthermore [the regulations] state that each State must ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.
(Letter to Clark, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, March 8, 2007 http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/letters/revpolicy/tpcwd.html)
In addition, another Department policy letter clarified that It is unlawful to deny a student with a disability admission to an accelerated class or program solely because of that student's need for special education or related aids and services, or because that student has an IEP or a plan under Section 504.
(Dear Colleague Letter: Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, December 26, 2007 http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20071226.html)
From these letters we can see that a student's academic performance is not the sole factor in IDEA eligibility, and even deaf students who perform at high academic levels may be eligible for IDEA services.