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Communication tips for work

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.

Communication tips:

  1. Always ask: even if someone’s using a hearing aid, ask if they need to lipread you.
  2. Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking.
  3. Turn your face towards the person you’re speaking to, so they can see your lip movements.
  4. For longer chats, find a place to talk with good lighting, away from noise and distractions.
  5. Speak clearly, not too slowly, and use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures.
  6. if someone doesn’t understand what you’ve said, try saying it in a different way or write it down.
  7. Keep your voice down: it’s uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout, and it can look and feel aggressive.
  8. If you’re talking to one person with hearing loss and one without, focus on both people.
  9. Get to the point: use plain language and don’t waffle.
  10. Don’t cover your mouth when speaking. (If you’re wearing a mask, pull it down to speak but keep a distance)

Tips for online meetings

For the organiser of the meeting:

  1. Check in advance if anyone needs communication support (sign language interpreter, notetaker etc). Allow plenty of time to arrange, if necessary.
  2. Test technology before the meeting with attendees who have hearing loss.
  3. Circulate an agenda in advance so everyone has clear reference points to follow.
  4. Nominate someone to take minutes. Avoid asking an attendee with hearing loss as they will be focused on following the meeting and possibly lipreading.
  5. Schedule breaks if the meeting is likely to exceed more than one hour.
  6. Round up the meeting and summarise actions and next steps.
  7. Share minutes with all attendees as soon as possible.
  8. Do not book back-to-back meetings.
  9. If colleagues are speaking over each other during a call, take control and remind attendees to speak one at a time.

For meeting attendees:

  1. Ensure your environment is suitable, without background noise or distraction.
  2. Ensure you are well lit and close to the camera that is switched ‘on’.
  3. Do not talk over each other.
  4. Say your name before speaking so others can look at your face to lipread, if needed.
  5. Do not eat or chew gum. It makes lipreading more difficult.
  6. Use visual clues, such as raising your hand before speaking.
  7. Talk clearly and make sure your entire face is visible on screen. Don’t cover your mouth when you’re speaking.
  8. Keep background options turned off; they are distracting and create a trail on the screen, making it difficult to follow lip-reading.
  9. Wear a headset with a microphone where possible. Most smartphone accessories include earphones that help to make sound a lot clearer. When using the microphone on a laptop or device, the sound quality varies dramatically depending on the acoustics in the room of the person speaking.

Other tools to help with communication

  • 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.