Telephone Etiquette with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

A person who is deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired can communicate by telephone.

  • By using a TTY, a device that consists of a keyboard and display screen, with the telephone handset placed on top of the TTY or a direct phone line connected to the TTY.
  • By using a State Relay Service where the Relay operator functions as an interpreter by voicing what is being typed on the TTY and typing back what has been voiced. Relay: 800.522.8506 Voice and 800.722.0353 TTY.
  • By having an interpreter in person to facilitate the call.

Tips for communicating with people who are Deaf.

  • When using a TTY only one person should talk or type at a time. On a TTY or through Relay, use "GA" for "Go Ahead" when it is the other person's turn to speak.
  • Always begin a TTY or Relay conversation by identifying yourself. Remember the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person cannot recognize your voice. Let each other know if the call is being transferred or another person is taking over the conversation.
  • Be concise with communication. Avoid using extensive vocabulary when a more simple and common word would get the message across.
  • Use abbreviations and limit the use of punctuation and the backspace key when typing on the TTY. Some commonly used abbreviations are "U" for "you," "PLS" for "please," and "HLD" for "hold."
  • How can you tell if you are receiving a TTY call? When answering the phone, you will hear one of three things: a beep or data line sound, an electronic voice message saying "Hearing Impaired Caller," or silence.
  • How do you know if you are receiving a Relay call? The Relay operator will ask if you have used Relay before, and will explain the procedure if you have not.
  • How do you know if you are receiving a call that is being interpreted? Usually the Deaf caller will identify himself or herself by saying "Hi, this is Susan. I am talking through an interpreter."
  • Remember to allow time for the interpreter or Relay operator to type or voice what is being said.