Raising Deaf Kids logo
Raising Deaf Kids: a world of information about children with hearing loss

Search RaisingDeafKids.org


Print this page with Adobe Acrobat.

Communicate With Someone Who Is Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Read this page for tips on communicating with a person who is deaf.

Do you have a friend, classmate or co-worker who is deaf?
Maybe he uses sign language or maybe he speaks.
Either way, there are things you can do that will help you communicate.

How to communicate with a person with hearing loss
Communicating with a person with hearing loss sometimes takes longer than talking with a hearing person. But it can be rewarding. Follow these tips the next time you meet someone with hearing loss.

Be prepared.

  • Ask the person what would be the best way to communicate.
  • Have paper and pencil ready. You may want to write down words that are hard to understand.

Find a quiet, well-lit room to talk in.

  • Good lighting helps both of you see each other's faces.
  • Background noise makes it harder to hear if you have a hearing aid.

Be patient.

  • Try not to rush. Rushing can make it hard for the other person to hear you or read your lips.
  • Don't pretend to understand if you don't.
    Ask the person to repeat what he said.
  • Nodding doesn't always mean a person understood what you said.
    Ask him, "Do you understand?"
    Or ask, "Do you want me to say that again?"
  • If the person doesn't understand you, repeat what you said.
    But this time, use shorter, simpler words and sentences.

Talk normally, and keep your mouth clear.

  • Talk normally. Speak a little louder than usual but don't shout. Shouting changes the way your face looks.
    It can make things harder to understand.
  • Don't overdo your lip movements.
    Talking a little slower helps the most.
  • Don't put anything in your mouth while talking.
  • Don't cover your mouth or turn your head away while talking.

Make sure you can see the other person's face clearly. Make sure he can see yours, too.

  • Wait until the person can see you before talking
  • Stand or sit about 3 to 6 feet from the person.
  • For groups, have everyone sit in a circle so everybody's face can be seen.
  • Watch facial expressions.
  • Look right at the person when you are talking.

Learn sign language.

  • Try to learn from someone who uses American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language.
  • Take a sign language class. Classes may be offered at
    • the local school for the deaf
    • adult education programs
    • other community programs
    • local colleges
  • Make a friend. Deaf adults are often eager to meet hearing people who want to make friends. This is a great way to learn sign language. It doesn't cost money. And, you won't have to follow a class schedule.
  • Get a sign language video.
  • Get an ASL dictionary.
  • Check out these ASL sites on the Internet.

These tips were written by Liberty Resources.

Learn more about how to communicate with a person with hearing loss:

About Us I Site Map I Search I Feedback I Privacy


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
© 2001-2004, Deafness and Family Communication Center or its affiliates