Communicating with DEAF and HARD of HEARING People

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  • Face the person and make sure the light is on your face.
  • Keep the face uncovered to enable the deaf person to ‘read’ your lips.
  • Speak a little louder and slower, but do not shout or open your mouth wider than normal.
  • Minimize background noise; this includes TV, music, traffic, coughing, papers rustling etc.
  • Use visual aids, body language or facial expressions appropriate to your words.
  • Repeat once, re-phrase or write down the information.

In addition, use short sentences omitting un-necessary words. Give ‘the subject’ of the conversation first this, with a certain amount of lip-reading, enables a bit of guesswork about what is being said!



It is best to face the deaf person when you speak. Even if they hear your voice, the deaf person will not understand what you say if they cannot see your face. Lipreading is impossible if you turn your head away, cover your mouth or chew. If you have a beard or a moustache, make sure that it does not cover your lips. A good light is very helpful. See that it falls on your face and does not shine in the deaf person’s eyes.

cockerel crowing animated clipAttract the deaf person’s attention before you speak. Look at them and speak their name clearly or touch them gently on the arm or shoulder. If you are in a situation where you enter a room and find your deaf friend totally absorbed in what they are doing, flick the light switch to alert them to your presence without startling them

Rooms with hard surfaces cause too much echo and distortion to hearing aid users. A room with mixed hard and soft surfaces is better. Hearing may be easier in the corner of the room. Restrict background noise as much as possible. Some pubs and restaurants will turn the music off if you ask. At mealtimes sit round a table and use a tablecloth to deaden the sound of crockery and cutlery. Hearing aids can amplify such sounds unbearably.

When speaking, do not suddenly change from one topic to another without any warning, as this can be very confusing. Introduce each new topic with a sentence (easier to read than odd words spoken at random). "Would you like a cup of tea?" is better than just the word "Tea?" for example.

Try not to drop your voice at the end of a sentence or at the punchline of a joke. Please do not make jokes about deafness. We have heard them all before and they were not funny the first time. Would you laugh at someone who was blind? Like any minority, deaf people make jokes amongst themselves about deafness, but that is a different situation.

Names, dates and times can be difficult to hear and lipread, so you may have to repeat these. If you have repeated something twice and your friend still cannot understand you, rephrase it. A different selection of words may be easier to lipread and hear. Slowing down your speech can be helpful, but shouting does not work and can be painful when amplified through a hearing aid.

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If all else fails, write things down. This does not only apply to conversation. A letter, for instance, may be more enjoyable for an elderly, deaf relative than a phone call.


Even if good communication tactics, loop systems, lipspeakers and interpreters are used, at the end of the day, deaf people are still deaf. Our lives are made easier by these things but they don‘t restore hearing.

Never say "It doesn't matter". It does matter or you would not have said it.

Keep in mind the three Cs: Common sense, Consideration and Courtesy.


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Helpful Tactics





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