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How to communicate with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss

People who are deaf or have hearing loss have individual communication needs and you should ask someone how best you can communicate with them. Not every tip below will be appropriate for every person who is deaf or has hearing loss.

Remember, people who rely on facial expressions and lipreading to communicate are finding communication especially difficult during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

These tips are particularly important when you are speaking to someone on the telephone or are wearing a mask or face covering:

  • Make sure you are facing the person you are talking to and speak clearly – avoid shouting, speaking too fast or unnecessarily slow.
  • If someone doesn’t understand you, repeat what you said or phrase it differently, use plain language.
  • If you are in a noisy place, move to a quieter area if possible.
  • Use simple gestures such as pointing or waving to get someone’s attention.
  • Write things down – use pen on paper, text on device screens, or whiteboards.
  • If they ask you to, speak to a relative or friend.

Useful tools

  • There are live speech-to-text apps available, though with varying levels of accuracy depending on background noise and speed of conversation.
  • Use Video Relay Services, such as InterpreterNow, for communicating with people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language.
  • Look out for people using the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard who may need your support to communicate.

Download our communication tips card