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How to Communicate with Someone When You Don’t Know Sign Language

Communication is not a one size fits all skill, it comes in many different forms. Sign language or ASL (American Sign Language) is another way that deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people use to communicate. Since hearing loss is an invisible disability, it is hard to know how many people it truly affects. That is why it is important to take the initiative to learn basic sign language or other forms of communication to break down language barriers and create a more inclusive environment.

Tips For Communicating

Starting a conversation with someone who is hard of hearing should be taken into consideration. Approaching the person from behind or tapping on their shoulder can startle someone who can't hear you. Alternatively, you can approach the person from a position where they can see you and make eye contact or tap on their shoulder from the front. This shows that you are engaged and ready to speak. After you have gained their attention, make it clear what the topic of your discussion is going to be. Having context is extremely important for someone who is going to be reading your lips. Once you have done this, you can start your conversation.

Facing the person you are talking to is vital for your communication. Make sure you avoid turning your head or looking at your surroundings. This can be misleading for the other person and lead them to think you are disinterested or make it hard to understand you. Consider the different facial expressions and hand movements you are making. In ASL, body language can often be interpreted as the tone of your voice. Make sure the tone you are trying to convey is mirrored through your movements.

Speaking clearly and slowly is another key thing to consider when talking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Speaking too quickly can leave the other person feeling confused or frustrated. It can also lead to words being misread or misinterpreted. Find a steady pace where the other person can clearly understand you. Don't be afraid to repeat what you say or ask them if you are talking too fast - checking in with each other only makes your communication stronger.

Using additional resources such as technology can help when sentences get too complex or your message is not translating well. Typing out what you are trying to say on your phone or using emojis to express your tone can help make your communication more clear. However, this should be used as a last resource. It is important to have a face-to-face conversation, no one wants to communicate solely through written messages.

Click here to see another blog post on sign language : 7 Basic Signs To Teach Your Baby

For those new to sign language or want to learn more, here are some helpful resources:

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How to communicate with a hearing impaired person. Hearing Link. (2021, April 7). Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

Sadler, M. (n.d.). 7 top tips for communicating with deaf people. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

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