Tips for Communicating with Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) People

Individuals who are Deaf, Deafblind or Hard of Hearing have the right to access clear and effective communication in their environment allowing them to be active participants.  Communication access, through appropriate accommodations, means that these individuals are given exactly the same information that people who can hear are provided.

Communication access does not strictly concern language access however also encompasses a much broader definition of access.  This relates to environmental accessibility.  For example visual fire alarms are one form of communication access.  

Guidelines for respectful and effective communication:

  • Get his/her attention, make eye contact.

  • Make sure your face and body is visible.

  • Use your normal tone, volume, and speed.

  • Do not over enunciate or yell.

  • Use check back strategies to make sure everything is going smoothly or if adjustments need to be made.

  • If you sense a struggle rephrase your comment/ question.  For example, “What is your address?” might become “Where do you live?”

  • Be aware of your environment.  Adequate lighting?  Background noise?

  • Be sure your mouth is free of obstructions such as a cigarette or food.

  • Be aware of your tone of voice.  Unconsciously you may sound or look patronizing.

  • Remember facial expressions and body language influence understanding.  Only 25% of the English language is visible on the lips.  This means that is impossible to completely depend on lip reading to understand the entire message.  It may be necessary to rephrase. 

  • Be patient and flexible!

Additional Resources relating to Communication Access

Communication Tips  (Exit DHS)

Last Revised: November 25, 2014