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5 mistakes to avoid when communicating with a Deaf person

Have you ever met a Deaf/Hard of Hearing person?

Maybe not, but be sure that at some point, you might be working with a deaf person, teaching a deaf student, learning from a deaf tutor, even raising a deaf child!


Sometimes you might know that you are communicating with a Deaf/Hard of Hearing person; they could be wearing a hearing aid or they are using sign language for communicating. But in other cases, the Deaf/Hard of Hearing person might choose to lip read you when they meet you.

In this case, it is possible that you do not realise that the person you are talking with is deafened, therefore without realising it, you could be making some of the following mistakes:



  1. Covering your mouth, turn around, look down or away while talking. Their eyes are their ears, if they can't see your mouth, they surely can't understand you.

  2. Start talking without being aware of the surroundings. Very noisy places, or with poor lighting won't contribute to a good communication.

  3. Keep repeating what you said using the same exact words. Some words are more difficult to lipread than others. rephrasing or writing it down would help.

  4. Shouting or exaggerating mouth patterns.Over-mouthing words alter the lip pattern which is distracting and difficult the comprehension. In general, the hardest sounds to perceive are those which are made inside the mouth and not visible on the lips (consonants like “d”, “g”, “n”, and “k").

  5. Giving up. This is the worst thing that could happen.

So, as soon as you know that you are having a conversation with a deaf/hard of hearing person, try to remember some of these helpful tips to make the communication nice and smooth:⁠

- Before you start speaking, tap or touch the person on the shoulder to gain their attention. This is a culturally acceptable way to gain attention. Tip: If possible, ask first they preferred way to get their attention.

- Always face the deaf person and gain eye contact so you know the person realises you are speaking to them. ⁠

- Keep your mouth visible⁠, keep facing to the light and move away from background noise⁠.

- Use normal facial expressions and gestures. Speak normally, clearly, without exaggeration, and at your normal pace.

- Speak one at a time if in a group.

- Ask if you are communicating O.K. If not, try to rephrase your words or write it down.⁠


- Consider learning some fingerspelling or basic sign language. Click to learn basic British Sign Language (BSL).

- Relax, be patient, be nice, and NEVER give up!⁠

You may think these are obvious points, but you will be surprised how many people just do not realise their usefulness.

Good luck!


 


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