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Communication Tips

General tips to ensure clear two-way communication with people who are culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing:

  • Ask the person if your surroundings are suitable and if you can be seen or heard clearly.
  • Choose a well-lit area to make speechreading easier.
  • Get the person’s attention before you speak. A shoulder tap is appropriate if the person is near you, or wave your hand if s/he is at a distance.
  • Remove visual distractions for someone who is deaf (e.g., don’t stand in front of a bright window), and remove audio distractions for someone who is hard of hearing (e.g., stand away from office equipment including photocopiers, computers, etc.).
  • Maintain eye contact. Don’t look down or sideways.
  • Speak clearly and naturally, and at a moderate pace – don’t shout.
  • Keep your hands away from your face and do not chew gum or cover your mouth with your hand or any other object.
  • Be patient and be prepared to write things down if you are not being understood or if you don’t understand.
  • Body language helps to project the meaning of what you’re saying; be animated. Use facial expressions and gestures when appropriate.
  • Rephrase when you are not understood.
  • Talk to the person, not about them.
  • When in doubt, ask how to improve communication.


Tips for working with a signed language–spoken language interpreter:

  • Speak at a natural pace, but be aware that the interpreter may wait to see/hear a complete thought before beginning to interpret.
  • Take turns in a conversation in order to allow the interpreter to process the information, understand it, and put it in the appropriate grammatical structure of the language into which they are translating.
  • Look at and speak directly to the person with whom you are meeting and listen to the interpreter. The deaf person will glance back and forth between the person speaking and the interpreter.


Tips for emergency situations:

To determine a person’s language choice and preferred communication support, ask questions (in writing) such as:

  • Are you deaf? Do you have hearing loss?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you?
  • Do you prefer paper and pen to write back and forth?
  • Would you like a communication device?
  • Do you wear hearing aids or a cochlear implant?
  • Would you like a signed language–spoken language interpreter? (If any person asks for a signed language–spoken language interpreter, service providers are required by law to pay for the services of a qualified professional interpreter.)


Tips for communicating with people with hearing loss:

  • Always face the person you’re talking to. Be aware that when you’re looking away from a person or covering your mouth, your lips can’t be seen.
  • Speak normally, don’t yell or scream. Yelling causes you to speak abnormally, making it difficult for people to understand you.
  • Don’t speak too quickly. What you’re saying needs to be processed and figured out.
  • Make sure you’re well-lit (avoid backlighting). Dim areas make it difficult to speech read. If there’s a light source behind you, such as a window, this often makes it difficult to see your lips.
  • Reduce ambient noise. When speaking to someone who is hard of hearing, try to minimize surrounding noise.
  • Explore alternative ways of communicating, such as writing on a whiteboard, using pen and paper, using text or email on a smartphone, or showing examples of what needs to be done.
  • Confirm with clarification. If there’s a chance you were misunderstood, a great way to clarify is to have someone repeat what you’ve said. This works for hearing people as well.