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Communicating with Deaf or hard-of-hearing students (without an interpreter)

When in doubt, ask the student for suggestions to improve communication.

Maintain eye contact; this allows for direct communication. Avoid turning away and at the same time.

Get the student’s attention before speaking. A wave or a tap on the shoulder is sufficient.

Try to communicate in a space that has good lighting and is free from background noise.

Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Do not exaggerate lip movements or over-pronounce words. Exaggeration and overemphasis of words distort lip movements, making lip reading more difficult.

Rephrase when you are not understood. Many English words look exactly the same on the lips. It may be easier to communicate with paper and pencil.

Let the student know what the topic of conversation is, giving clues when changing the subject.

When necessary, use pantomiming, body language, and facial gestures to communicate.

Do not place anything in or over your mouth while speaking. Actions such as smoking, chewing on a pencil, and covering one’s mouth make it more difficult for the Deaf person to understand what is being said.

Avoid being back-lit, such as by a window or a bright light. The shadow created on the speaker’s face makes lip reading extremely difficult for the persons who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.

If the phone rings or if someone knocks on the door while you are having a conversation with a Deaf person, explain what is happening.

Write down any important information, or if you think you are not being understood.

When using an assistive listening device (ALD), wear the microphone around your neck for best sound quality.

The ALD microphone would need to be passed around if other people will be talking. If students tend to ask questions during your lectures, please make every effort to re-state the question, so that hard-of-hearing students hear both the question and the answer. This is good practice in general.

Last Updated: 10/23/09