Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

Sign Language

Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

In the United States, approximately 15 percent of adults have some level of hearing difficulty. Communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing requires a specific approach. If you need to make sure the conversation goes smoothly, here are some tips that can help.

Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

Get Their Attention the Right Way

When you need to speak with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, don’t call out their name from a distance in an attempt to get their attention. Instead, try to move into their visual field and use a small wave to let them know you want to engage in conversation.

If someone else is facing the deaf or hard of hearing person, you may request that they get their attention if you’re unable, having them point you out.

In situations where you can’t approach the person from the front, you can also try a light tap on the shoulder. Just make sure you aren’t disrupting a conversation that’s in progress before you do unless it is an emergency.

Face Them Directly

When you’re communicating with a deaf person, make sure to face them directly during the discussion. Many people who are deaf use lipreading to help them engage in conversation. Additionally, facial expressions help give them important context, allowing them to gauge the other participant’s mood.

The same applies to hard-of-hearing individuals. By facing them, you’re ensuring they get critical visual cues. Plus, you’ll be directing the sound of your voice in their direction, making it easier for them to pick it up.

Don’t Cover Your Mouth

As you speak with deaf or hard of hearing people, don’t cover your mouth when you talk. If you do, that can prevent them from reading your lips. Plus, it blocks the sound of your voice, which may cause them to miss part of the conversation.

Similarly, avoid eating or chewing gum during the conversation. Not only can it alter the sound of your voice, but it also makes lipreading harder.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

Whether you’re talking with a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual, make sure you speak slowly and clearly. Enunciating your words makes it easier for a hard-of-hearing person to understand you and may make reading your lips simpler. By also going slower, you reduce the odds that your words will run together, which can also lead to better understanding.

When you’re talking with a deaf person, extra volume isn’t necessary. However, if you’re speaking with a hard-of-hearing person and you typically speak softly, a little more volume may help. Just make sure you don’t cross into yelling territory, as that’s often farther than you’ll need to go.

Additionally, avoid exaggerated mouth movements, as those can lead to more confusion, not less. Instead, speak naturally while being vigilant about speed and clarity.

Maintain the Right Distance

If you’re talking with a deaf person or anyone who uses hearing aids, stand around three feet apart at the beginning of the conversation. Then, allow the other person to adjust the distance based on what’s comfortable for them. That way, deaf persons can position themselves in a spot that makes it easier for them to engage in activities like lipreading or signing. It also allows hard-of-hearing individuals to select a distance that works best with any hearing assistance devices if they use them.

Use Written Aids If Necessary

When you’re talking with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, written aids can keep the conversation on track. This can include handwritten notes or typed text on a computer or phone.

If you’re using written communication, make sure what you’re sharing is understood before moving forward. That way, you don’t accidentally continue on too quickly.

Find a Spot with Good Lighting

Lighting also makes a difference when communicating with someone who reads lips and relies on facial expression and body language during conversations. By choosing a well-lit area and ensuring your face is clearly visible, you make it easier for them to use other cues to follow what you’re sharing.

Avoid Noisy Environments

When talking with a hard-of-hearing individual, background noise can be particularly troublesome. Ideally, you want to find a quiet area to chat. That way, you can minimize the amount of sound in the space, ensuring they’ll have an easier time understanding you.

Work with a Sign Language Interpreter

If you need to have a conversation with a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual that knows sign language, working with an interpreter could be your best option. They’ll ensure everyone fully understands what’s shared, allowing the discussion to move forward smoothly.

When you partner with an interpreter, make sure you still talk to the deaf or hard of hearing person directly. Keep the interpreter near you. That way, the other person can see both of you with ease. Use a metered cadence when you talk, ensuring you aren’t rushing and that the interpreter can keep up easily.

Do You Need a Sign Language Interpreter?

If you require a professional sign language interpreter, Acutrans can help. Acutrans provides interpretation services along with certified, notarized translations. If you need a sign language interpreter, the Acutrans team can offer a fast, reliable solution. Contact us for a free quote today.