Communicating with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Communication Tips

  • DO be aware that even a small hearing problem can hamper a person's ability to understand what you say.
  • DON'T assume that a hearing aid corrects hearing loss.
  • DO get the Deaf person's attention before you begin to speak, and DON'T start speaking without it. It is acceptable to tap a person lightly on the shoulder or arm or to wave a hand, small piece of paper or cloth gently in the person's direction to attract his or her attention.
  • DO face the Deaf or hard of hearing person and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. DON'T talk directly to the interpreter, but always to the Deaf person.
  • DO stand close to the Deaf or hard of hearing person. DON'T let any object obstruct the person's view of you.
  • DON'T, for example, talk while you write on a chalkboard.
  • DO make sure the Deaf person can clearly see your mouth and face. DON'T eat, smoke, chew gum or hold your hand in front of your mouth while you talk.
  • DO stand in a well-lighted place. DON'T stand with your back to a light source such as a window. This throws your face into shadow and makes it difficult to see clearly.
  • DO try to converse in a quiet place. DON'T assume that background noise makes no difference.
  • DO speak and enunciate clearly, but DON'T exaggerate your lip movements.
  • DO use your voice, but DON'T shout. Many Deaf people can get some information through sound, but shouting distorts both the sound of words and lip movements.
  • DO use facial expressions and body language to clarify your message. DON'T be embarrassed to be expressive.
  • DO rephrase sentences that Deaf people don't understand. DON'T just repeat the same words over and over in the same sequence.
  • DO use pencil and paper or visual aids as necessary. DON'T be embarrassed about writing things down.