Tips for Communicating with Deaf Students

The following tips can be of great help when communicating to a deaf or hard-of-hearing student.  Please download the pdf for a reference guide.

  • When communicating with a Deaf student, it is a good idea to remember that intelligence, personality, age of onset of deafness, language background, listening skills, lip reading, and speech abilities all vary with each Deaf person, just as the skills and personalities of hearing people vary.
  • Maintain eye contact with the student. Eye contact helps convey the feeling of direct communication. 
  • Although an interpreter may be present, speak directly to the Deaf person.
  • Use as many visual cues as possible.  Supporting materials such as charts, pictures, whiteboards, handouts and overhead projectors enhance communication and understanding.
  • Treat the Deaf and Hard of Hearing student as you would any other student.  They should be held to the same standards as stated in the class syllabus.
  • If no interpreter is present, and you cannot wait for one, communicate via paper and pencil.  Getting the message across is more important than the medium used.
  • Every Deaf person will communicate in a different way.  Some will use a combination of sign language, finger spelling, speaking, or writing.  In addition, some will use body language and facial expressions to supplement their interactions.  In any case, conveying the message is more important than how the message is conveyed.
  • The proper term for an individual with a hearing loss who uses sign language is “Deaf” or “Hard of Hearing,” depending on the amount of hearing loss.  Please refrain from using the term “hearing impaired