Top ten tips: Speaking to someone with a hearing impairment

  1. There is no need for guesswork! Ask the person you are speaking to how they would like to communicate. Do not assume that a deaf person uses BSL or lipreads. Ask where they would like to sit, what is needed for them to be fully included in the conversation.
  2. If the deaf person has an interpreter with them, your conversation must always be directed at the person you are talking to, not the interpreter.
  3. If the deaf person lip reads, speak normally, but do avoid covering your mouth, eating or chewing gum whilst speaking.
  4. Always look directly at the deaf person if they are lip reading; make sure your face is visible and facing the light where possible.
  5. If you have a moustache, do check with a deaf person who lip reads if your facial hair impairs their access to reading your lips.
  6. A meeting with a deaf person who lip reads – or with someone who has brought an interpreter – must be properly chaired/executed. It is vital that only one person speaks at a time in a meeting situation and that there are no cross conversations.
  7. Be resourceful. If there are difficult words which you cannot avoid or a way of explaining something in a better way, do what you would do in any other situation. Use hand gestures or pen and paper to overcome obstacles in a conversation.
  8. If the person is using an interpreter, be mindful that the interpreter is a little behind your conversation. Allow time for the deaf person finish taking in your conversation through the interpreter and speak more slowly where you are using words which need to be spelled out by the interpreter.
  9. If there is someone you know/work with who uses BSL, learn some basic words to be more inclusive – some basic conversation to include the deaf person in daily work or social scenarios. It’s a small thing but will likely be much appreciated! It also promotes to others in your environment   the need to be inclusive.
  10. Don’t be afraid of getting things wrong. A genuine effort made to accommodate the needs of another is unlikely to offend However, if you are in a customer services role, it is vital that your employer considers disability equality training for all staff to protect the rights of disabled people to inclusion, respect and dignity.