Communicating With Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Communication without a Sign Language Interpreter

If the person who is deaf or hard of hearing relies on lip reading to understand you, they will in turn, either use their voice or write their response for you to read.

  • Write notes back and forth to each other
  • Speak to the person and allow them to lip read you
  • Use mime and gestures to help convey your message

When an Interpreter is not Available or Appropriate

A person who is deaf or hard of hearing will generally let you know when lip reading is preferred by using their voice to respond to you.

Guidelines to Help Facilitate and Enhance Lip Reading

Face the individual: It is nearly impossible to lip read someone who is not looking directly at you. Even a slight turn of the head can obscure a person’s view of your mouth.

Do speak slowly and clearly: It is not necessary to exaggerate or over-emphasize your speaking. Such methods distort lip movements making them difficult to read.

Be aware of light sources: Avoid standing with a light source behind you. Shadows and bright or distracting backgrounds make lip reading nearly impossible.

Be aware of movement: Try to avoid unnecessary pacing or writing on the board while lecturing. Lip reading someone in motion or from the back is impossible.

Repeat questions: Repeat questions and comments from other students. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing are cut off from whatever is not in their visual field.

Permit viewing time: Allow time for an individual to review written materials before resuming discussion. The spoken message will be missed without the return of attention to the speaker.

Rephrase: If you experience difficulty communicating something to an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, try to rephrase a thought or statement, rather than repeat the exact same wording. Often a particular group of lip movements is difficult to read because they resemble others or the vocabulary may not be familiar.

Keep in mind that a student may nod even when not understanding, as it can be embarrassing to admit incomprehension.

It is important to recognize that if English is used in any form, whether it be spoken, written, or for lip reading, the person who is deaf or hard of hearing must be fluent in English. The native language of many people who are Deaf is American Sign Language, which is grammatically different from English. These individuals may not be fluent in English as a second language. In these situations, the above suggestions would not facilitate successful communication.

If you have any further questions about working with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, an interpreter/captionist or would like more information, contact: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
Phone: 978-241-7045 (VP/V))