10 Ways to communicate with a Deaf Person without Sign Language

how to communicate with a deaf person without sign language

The ability to communicate effectively with a deaf person without using sign language can be quite arduous, especially if it’s your first time.

It takes a lot of patience, commitment, and concentration for you to properly interact with a deaf or hearing impaired person.

And this is even more significant if you don’t understand sign language or how to effectively use it to communicate.

This article will help you to mitigate this problem by guiding you on how you can effectively communicate with a deaf person without sign language.

When you are done reading, you’ll be equipped with the various tips and tricks that can enable you to maintain a smooth conversation with anyone suffering from hearing impairment, even though you don’t understand sign language.

Table of Contents

How to Communicate with a Deaf Person without Sign Language

1. Get their attention

You can’t start a conversation with a person who is not paying any attention to you.

You must get the attention of the deaf person you’ll be communicating with before starting any interaction.

Some of the ways you can get their attention are by waving in their line of vision, a gentle tap on the arm or shoulder, flickering the light (especially at night), or any other form of visual signal.

Related: This is How a Deaf Person Can Drive

2. Avoid any type of distraction

Ensure that you’re in a quiet and serene place before starting a conversation with the deaf person.

Conversing in a noisy place will distract both of you and will not allow you to communicate effectively. It might even be uncomfortable for the deaf person if they’re using a hearing aid.

In addition, endeavor to keep your phone aside when you start communicating. A phone can be a big distraction during serious conversations. Therefore, do away with it or anything that might distract you during the conversation and focus on who you’re conversing with.

Doing this will show the deaf person how much you value the conversation and respect them as a person.

3. State the topic for discussion

what are 3 ways you can communicate with a deaf person if you dont know sign language

Before starting the conversation, endeavor to tell them the topic for discussion to give them an idea of what the whole interaction will be all about.

Also, tell them the new topic when you change the topic or deviate from what’s being discussed. It will enable you to carry them along and prevent them from getting lost during the conversation.

4. Maintain eye contact

Don’t look away when you’re communicating with a deaf person for them not to miss what you’re saying. Maintain eye contact as you would do when discussing with a hearing person. It goes a long way in improving the interaction.

Remove your sunshade or glasses (unless it’s recommended).

Also, remove your mask (if necessary) to enable the deaf person to read your lips easily when you talk.

Avoid munching on something or smoking during the conversation so as not to make the deaf person’s understanding of what’s being said more difficult.

Related: How to Take a Deaf Person’s Order

5. Make your speech articulate

When speaking, don’t be too slow or too fast. Endeavor to maintain a normal pace.

Don’t shout either; it doesn’t help the conversation in any way. Hence, keep a normal tone of voice and let the conversation be as natural as possible.

6. Be courteous and respectful

Never disrespect a deaf person, just as you won’t disrespect a hearing person during a conversation.

Be respectful and seek their permission to excuse you if you must leave the conversation to attend to something else

Don’t just leave in the middle of the conversation without telling them why you did so. That can be very hurtful and disrespectful to the deaf person.

7. Use gestures and facial expressions

Even if you don’t understand sign language, the use of body language or gestures, alongside facial expressions, can bring life into the conversation.

They make the discussion more engaging, enjoyable, and clear for you and the deaf person.

Related: How to Easily Call a Deaf Person Over the Phone

8. Repeat and rephrase when needed

how to communicate with a deaf person without sign language

Sometimes, the deaf person might find it difficult to lip-read you as a result of how fast you speak during the conversation.

Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself if they seem not to decode what you’re saying. Endeavor to speak as normally as possible with a steady pace.

Be patient and don’t give up on them. And refrain from saying “Never mind”, “It doesn’t matter”, or “I’ll tell you about it later” as a way of ending the conversation if they don’t seem to comprehend you.

Instead, attempt to rephrase your words by using a different sentence to aid better comprehensiveness.

9. Use assistive technology devices or pen and paper when the need arises

If the verbal communication doesn’t allow the deaf person to easily lip-read you and understand what you’re saying, you can opt for a better means of communication by using assistive technology devices.

Download a speech-to-text app on your phone. The app enables you to easily say what you intend to communicate on the phone and translates it into text. Then you can allow them to read the text by showing it to them.

Alternatively, you can communicate with them by using pen and paper. Write down your thoughts, show them, and allow them to reply in the same manner if they are literate.

This method is particularly important if you have to tell them about a map or diagram, which might require you to draw.

10. Get an interpreter

Sometimes, there are cases where you might want to have a long conversation and don’t have enough time to patiently explain yourself to let the deaf person understand you.  Getting an interpreter will be a viable option in this regard.

An interpreter will do all the work for you and make your conversation easier and faster.

However, make sure you maintain eye contact with the deaf person, even as the interpreter helps you with interpretation.

10 Ways to communicate with a Deaf Person without Sign Language


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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