Communication Tips

These basic rules will help you successfully communicate with deaf people, ensuring mutual respect and satisfaction.


  • Ask patient directly the best way to interact
  • Have paper and pencil
  • Write in short simple sentences; patients (or a family member’s) grammar may not be perfectly correct.
  • Convey your willingness to communicate
  • Watch facial expressions, eye gaze, etc.
  • Repeat if necessary
  • Allow for more time
  • Look directly at the person, keeping your hands and face toward the deaf person you are speaking with, even when they are looking at an interpreter.
  • Do include the deaf person in the conversation.
  • Be friendly; they merit the same respect as anyone else.


  • Don’t assume communication is occurring correctly (nodding does not always mean I understand)
  • Don’t underestimate a person’s intelligence.
  • Don’t pretend to understand if you don’t.
  • Don’t exaggerate your mouth movements or yell.
  • Don’t have objects in your mouth, or cover your mouth while speaking (This applies to deaf children and adults).
  • If you must discuss something you don’t want interpreted, and then leave the room. Or wait until the Deaf person leaves.
  • Don’t repeat the same word if there is difficulty understanding it. Use a synonym.
  • Don’t speak to a deaf person with your back to a light, window or mirror .
  • Do not refer to them in third person as if he/she was not present.

To get a Deaf Person’s Attention:

Gentle tap the shoulder or arm is best. If entering a room, you can flip the light switch off/on once or twice before entering so they know you are coming in.

Communicating with Speech Readers:

  • Wait until the person can see you before speaking.
  • Never speak directly into the person’s ear.
  • Position yourself 3-6 feet from the person.
  • Speak at your normal rate.
  • Use appropriate gestures and facial expressions.
  • Do not exaggerate your words
  • Clue the person about the topic and as the subject of the conversation changes.
  • Choose a quiet place, reducing as much background noise as possible.