Communicating with DHH Students

DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) students who do not use interpreters may use different services and devices to facilitate communication. When in doubt, ask the student how you can improve communication.

Ways to Improve Communication

  • Maintain eye contact; this allows for direct communication. Avoid turning away and talking at the same time.
  • When masked, use a microphone and speaker system to amplify the sound, as volume is decreased by the mask and the increased distance between conversation participants. This will also help protect your own voice, as you may find yourself trying to speak louder for longer while conversing masked.
  • Consider using an appropriate clear mask while teaching and conversing with students. Reach out to if you would like information about clear face masks.
  • Get the student's attention before speaking. A wave or a tap on the shoulder is sufficient.
  • Try to communicate in a space that has good lighting and is free from background noise. Avoid being back-lit, such as by a window or a bright light. The shadow created on the speaker's face makes lip reading and any facial cue detecting extremely difficult for the people who are DHH.
  • Speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Do not exaggerate lip movements or over-pronounce words. Exaggeration and overemphasis of words distort lip movements, making lip reading more difficult.
  • Rephrase when you are not understood. Many English words look exactly the same on the lips. It may be easier to communicate with paper and pencil or via text.
  • Let the student know what the topic of conversation is, give clues when changing the subject.
  • When necessary, use gestures, body language, and facial gestures to communicate.
  • When it is safe to unmask, do not place anything in or over your mouth while speaking. Actions such as smoking, chewing on a pencil, and covering one's mouth make it more difficult for the DHH person to understand what is being said.
  • If the phone rings or if someone knocks on the door while you are having a conversation with a DHH person, explain what is happening.
  • Write down any important information, or if you think you are not being understood.
  • When using an assistive listening system (ALS) or the classroom microphone system, place the microphone below your face for the best sound quality.
  • The ALS or class microphone would need to be passed around if other people will be talking. If students tend to ask questions during your lectures, please make every effort to re-state the question, so that DHH students hear both the question and the answer. This is good practice in general.