22 October 2021
Top tips – how to communicate with people with hearing loss
BSL (British Sign Language) videos with subtitles are a really important way for you to communicate online with people who have hearing loss. Having a video on your website gives valuable, equal, access to information.
But would you know the best way to communicate with someone with hearing loss if you met them face-to-face?
Here are some useful tips from A2i to help you communicate effectively and respectfully:
1. Find out communication preferences.
If you know you’ll be meeting someone who has hearing loss, find out their requirements and preferred method of communication before you meet. Every individual has their preference.
If you are meeting a Deaf person who’s a BSL user you should try to arrange for a BSL interpreter to be with you. Or the person might prefer to bring a Communication Support Worker with them.
2. Get the persons attention before you speak.
Get the persons attention without raising your voice. Shouting someone’s name isn’t nice for anyone, especially in a public place or in a meeting with several people. Instead you should
- move so the person can see you
- wave your hand in their line of vision
- lightly tap their shoulder, or
- flick a light switch.
3. Always face the person.
Face the person you’re speaking to, and keep eye contact. This will help the person lip read and see your facial expressions if they need to. It also lets them know you are listening.
If you are using a BSL interpreter, look at the Deaf person, not the interpreter. This lets them know you are talking to them, not the interpreter.
4. Don’t cover your mouth.
Keep your hands, pens (and anything else!) away from your mouth, and don’t wave your hands in front of your face. People need clear sight of your mouth and face to aid understanding and for lip-reading.
5. Check lighting and noise.
Make sure the lighting is good and that you are in a quiet place. Don’t stand with a window or light behind you. Avoid shadows on your face, and the sun shining into people’s eyes.
6. Keep a distance.
Stand 1 or 2 metres away from the person you are speaking to. This is important for people with hearing aids, as well as people who may be lip reading.
7. Speak clearly.
By this we don’t mean shout! And don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or facial expressions either. This would actually make it harder to understand you.
You should speak clearly, slowly and steadily, and try to sentences short where possible. Pause between important sentences so the person can ask or answer questions.
8. Try different words and phrases.
If you’re struggling to make yourself understood, try saying the same thing again, but in a different way. Some words are harder to understand, and especially if lip-reading. You could also try using some body gestures.
9. Write it down or use technology
You could always write things down, draw pictures, or show images to help understanding. Or use technology to help – type on a screen, use email, instant messaging or texts.
But if you use written communication, make sure you have been understood as everyone has different reading levels and comprehension.
10. Be considerate of sounds the person might not hear
If your phone rings, or someone knocks at the door, the person with hearing loss might not hear it or be aware of it. Let them know what’s happening, especially if you’re going to answer your phone, or get up to answer the door.
Most importantly – don’t give up
Be patient, relaxed and respectful. Don’t stop the conversation because it seems hard. Just try different things until you succeed.
More information about BSL is also in our Blogs:
- BSL videos – what types there are and what to use them for, and
- Top 10 British Sign Language (BSL) FAQ’s