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Communicating with staff who are deaf or have hearing loss

It’s important to think about how you can best communicate with people hearing loss and deafness in the workplace. Learn about what you can do to communicate effectively at work.

Deaf awareness training

Some people can feel anxious or unsure about how to communicate with someone with hearing loss in the workplace. This can result in colleagues with hearing loss being excluded during meetings and socially. Deaf awareness training and basic sign language training can be helpful for people working with someone with hearing loss on a regular basis.

RNID runs a wide variety of sign language and deaf awareness training courses across the UK. Training can sometimes be paid for by Access to Work.

Find out more about our services and training for businesses on our Louder than Words site.

Communication tips

It’s useful to share communication tips with people in the workplace so they can communicate more effectively with colleagues who have hearing loss. These can include:

  • Turning your face towards the person you are speaking to, so they can see your lip movements.
  • Speaking clearly and not too slowly. Use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures.

Read more of our communication tips.

You can find more useful information in our publications.

Making your meeting deaf aware

Read our tips on how you can make your meetings more accessible for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. 

  • Check in advance if anyone needs communication support.
  • Switch on any microphones and loop systems.
  • Sit in a horseshoe shape so all attendees can see each other and identify more easily who’s speaking.
  • On a teleconference, make sure you say your name before speaking.
  • Use a meeting agenda to give a clear reference point for everyone to follow.
  • Put your hand up before speaking, so everyone can identify the speaker.
  • Make sure only one person is talking at a time.

Sign language

Sign language uses a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English.

If you work with someone whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL), it can help to know a few signs. Don’t be afraid to give it a go. Your colleague who uses sign language will appreciate you trying, even if you get something wrong.

If an employee who uses sign language joins your organisation it can be useful to organise sign language training so that your team can learn the basics. RNID runs BSL training.

Download our Learning British Sign Language leaflet.

Download our fingerspelling alphabet.

“All employees at Sass and Belle are offered an opportunity to learn BSL and most do take up the lessons. The classes are excellent for team building as well as providing staff with a new skill. We currently employ one Deaf BSL user in our design team. His colleagues communicate with him using his preferred language, so he feels part of the team” – Richard Stone, Managing Director, Sass and Belle