The life activity most affected by hearing loss is communication. Colleagues and friends must be versatile in finding an effective communication method. Pen and paper are handy communication devices in some situations. Although you want to avoid gross or exaggerated arm waving, pantomime is helpful. Be aware that if you point to an object or area during a conversation with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, that person will most likely turn to look at where you are pointing. Allow their gaze to return to you before continuing with what you are saying. Though not effective for all people who are hearing impaired, knowing some sign language and fingerspelling is helpful. Learn some elementary or survival signs from colleagues, coworkers, or managers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing, like people who are hearing, have different education levels. Knowledge of English grammar, syntax, and spelling varies from individual to individual. A person who uses American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language of communication may or may not be proficient in using standard English. For the most part, English is an oral/aural language designed to be spoken and heard. Therefore, it is quite challenging to learn and understand English when you can not hear, especially when it varies so greatly from the structure and syntax of ASL. The person who is not proficient in English is not stupid or illiterate; he or she just uses a different language to communicate.
Getting the attention of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing can vary depending on the person and the situation. If the person has enough residual hearing to pick up a verbal cue, calling their name is quite appropriate. When this does not work and the person is within reach, a light tape on the shoulder or lightly placing your hand on their shoulder works well. A heavy touch and rapid taping is used to indicate urgency, such as during an emergency. For people out of arms reach, you can ask some one closer to the person to tape them on the shoulder, or you can wave your hand and arm in the air. Sometimes hitting your foot on the floor repetitively or light pounding on a table are used. The latter works especially well when the person who is hearing impaired is leaning on the table. For getting the attention of large groups, simply flash the lights in the room on and off several times at a slow and steady pace. This works well in mixed groups of deaf and hearing people. Again, rapidly flashing the lights indicates an emergency.
Not all hearing impaired people are good lip readers and lip reading skill has no correlation to a personšs intelligence. Even good lip readers may miss many words. Keep in mind that only 25-30% of spoken English can be lip read. Not all deaf people know how to speak sign language, or choose to use sign language interpreters. Some prefer to communicate through lip reading and some prefer sign language. When a person is reading your lips, enunciate clearly, but do not yell or over enunciate your words, as you will distort your lip movements and also look very foolish. Remove from your mouth objects such as cigarettes, pipes, gum, chewing tobacco, or food. Keep your hands or any other objects from covering your mouth. A beard or mustache may interfere with a lip reader's ability to read your lips. Try to sit with a light source in front of you, not behind you (such as a window).
Many deaf and hard of hearing people have voices that are easily understood. Others cannot monitor the volume and tone of their speech and may be initially hard to understand. If a person is speaking for themselves and you do not understand their speech, it is appropriate for you to ask them to repeat, or even to write down what is being said. Ask in a respectful, not condescending manner. Deaf people, like hearing people, vary to some degree in their communication skills.
For many people who speak sign language, American Sign Language (ASL) is the first language that they acquire and use. ASL is a recognized language with a unique syntax, grammar, and structure. It is not at form of English. Other people who use sign language that is not ASL use one of the manual codes for English that combines some of the vocabulary of ASL signs with some of the grammar and syntax of English.
The need for an interpreter depends on the situation and the people involved. Interpreters can be described as a communication link. A telephone, for example, is a communication link; it does not add information or alter the content of the message.
Do not refer to a deaf person as deaf and dumb. Many deaf people have the ability to speak orally. Deafness does not, in itself, affect intelligence. Some people prefer to voice for themselves, even with a sign language interpreter present interpreter. In addition, in conversation it is not necessary to avoid using the words or phrases like hear or sounds good with a deaf person.
The interpreter makes communication possible between persons separated by different language modes. Listed below are some tips on how to work with an interpreter.
To find an agency in your area that provides sign language interpreters, contact your local state unemployment office, your local office of the state department of rehabilitation, community based organizations that serve people with disabilities or the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. at 301-608-0050 Voice/TDD.
To request an interpreter, most agencies require at least three to five days notice in advance. Have the following information ready:
1. Date and time of interview or meeting
2. Name of interviewer (or contact person) and company
3. Address of company, including room number, zip code and nearest cross streets
4. Telephone number, including extension and area code
5. State what the event is (meeting, job interview, etc.) and request any special circumstances, ASL interpreter, signed English, oral, etc.
Relay services establish communication between hearing people who use voice phones and hearing or speech impaired people who use Telecommunication Devices for Deaf (TDD). The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that every state establish such a service for both in state and out of state calls.
If you wish to contact a deaf person using your local relay service, call the voice number and give the operator the deaf personšs TDD number. If you are deaf and trying to contact a voice number with your TDD, call the TDD number and give the operator the voice number.
The relay operator will be using both the telephone and the TDD while relaying communications between the deaf person and the hearing person. The hearing person needs to speak at a slower than normal pace in order for the operator to be able to keep up while typing. The hearing person also will need to say "GA" or (Go Ahead) to inform the operator to let the deaf person know it is their turn to speak. There may be periods of silence while the operator waits for the TDD user to finish a complete thought before the operator speaks it into the phone. It is important to be patient and to recognize that typing takes longer than talking. If you are unaccustomed to using a telephone relay service, the relay operator will be most happy to assist you in using this service.