People who are deaf or hearing impaired are those who cannot hear at normal levels because of a variety of factors.
Deafness and hearing impairment can be hereditary or may be caused by any of a range of factors, including physical damage, birth defects, disease, and exposure to very loud noises or natural aging.
People who are deaf and identify with the Deaf community see themselves as a language minority not a disability group and may use a visual sign language to communicate.
In Australia, Auslan is the sign language used among signing deaf people to communicate with each other. For further information view the Auslan Signbank website .
Hearing impairment may range from mild to moderate to severe to profound.
- A person with a mild hearing impairment may not even be aware of their inability to hear certain sounds.
- A moderate hearing impairment may cause some difficulty in hearing, for example in background noise, but not in every situation.
- A person with a severe hearing impairment will have considerable difficulty in following speech and in hearing other environmental sounds. However, their own speech may not be affected by their hearing disability.
- Profound hearing impairment implies that the person’s range of hearing is extremely limited.
Members of the Deaf community use Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) as their first language and may experience some difficulty communicating in spoken and/or written English.
A deaf or hearing impaired person’s ability to articulate verbally will depend on the degree of hearing loss, when that loss occurred and the training they have received.
For people with a hearing Impairment, reduce background noises and other distractions. The use of a hearing aid will amplify all sound, so background noises like the air conditioner or wind will sound louder, as well as speech.
When communicating with a deaf or hearing impaired person, it is important to acknowledge that each person is an individual and should be approached as such.
- Meet in a setting that is comfortable and does not cause anxiety or distraction
- To get a person’s attention, place yourself where the person can see you and wave your hand or tap them on the shoulder.
- Ensure the person is looking at you when you speak to them.
- If the person requires a sign language interpreter, face the person with the hearing impairment when talking, not the interpreter.
- Position the signing interpreter so that they are able to hear the conversation and remain clearly visible to the deaf or hearing impaired person.
- Make sure that there is good lighting on your face.
- Reduce background noises that can interfere with communication and with hearing aids.
- Speak directly to the person and not the interpreter.
- Do not shout. Ask the person what level of sound or communication method meets their needs.
- Do not speak too quickly.
- Keep sentences short.
- Make sure that the words being used are known by the person/interpreter.
- Do not exaggerate lip movements or place your hand in front of your mouth.
- Ensure that the topic being discussed is clear.
- If the person cannot understand what is being said, explain it using different words, expressions and body language.
- If necessary use paper and pen to communicate.
- Do not walk away from the person when you are speaking to them. They may have difficulty hearing the words you are saying or reading your lips.
- If necessary, ask questions to check that the person has understood all important points.
- Answer all questions as briefly and accurately as possible. Do not provide unnecessary detail where it is not required.
- Be aware that an interpreter will need regular breaks (approximately every 20 minutes).
Written Communication Strategies
- Use written communication to back up what is being discussed.
- Ensure information and language used is appropriate to the individual’s needs.
- Note that some deaf or hearing impaired people will not be comfortable using written English.
There is also a wide range of assistive technology i.e. TTY (telephone typewriter), FM system (amplify sounds), Mobile SMS text, fax and email available to assist in communicating with people who are deaf or hearing impaired.