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Etiquette for Use with People Who Have Hearing Impairments
Etiquette for Use with People Who Have Hearing Impairments
Disability & Accessibility

When you are with a person who is deaf or has hearing problems:

  • Look directly at the person you are speaking to. If you are working with a sign language interpreter, talk directly to the person who is deaf, not to the interpreter. While working, the interpreter is not a participant in the conversation, but a transmitter for the person who is deaf.
  • Don't cover your mouth, and don't create shadow on your face by standing with your back or side to a bright light or window.
  • Speak at a slow to moderate rate and don't use exaggerated lip movement. Some people's voices are easier to understand. Women with soft voices can be more difficult to understand.
  • If there is a misunderstanding about something you've said, repeat the same idea using different words.
  • Keep paper and pen nearby. If communication is difficult, feel comfortable resorting to writing key words or brief phrases—and writing phone numbers or addresses is often a good idea.
  • Don't shout—it won't help. Hearing aids make sounds louder, not clearer.
  • To get a person's attention, gently tap the Deaf/hard of hearing person on the arm or elbow and make sure they are looking at you before you speak.
  • Be aware that being able to hear conversation in a crowd and/or with background noise is most difficult.

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