How to Work With a Person Who Is Deaf or Hearing Impaired

how to work with a person who is deaf or hearing impaired

Deaf or hearing-impaired persons are people who suffer from hearing impairment in either one or both of their ears.

This hearing impairment doesn’t deter them from living their best life or reaching the peak of their career.

It’s no longer news that several organizations and companies today employ hearing-impaired persons.

The first-like concern that’s more of a question here is how will they be able to communicate with their colleagues at work? Most especially those who don’t know how to use sign language.

This article will discuss how to work with a person who is deaf or hearing impaired.

Table of Contents

How a Deaf or Hearing Impaired Person Communicate

Communication is an effective way for a job to be done more rapidly among colleagues in any company or organization.

However, this tends to be quite a challenge for most hearing-impaired persons as communication with their colleagues might become a major barrier for them in their workplace.

This could probably be one of the reasons why deaf employees work so hard to prove their worth during their application and interview processes and also while at their jobs.

Most deaf persons communicate by making use of sign language more often. Just a handful of them are quite great at lip-reading and speaking to their colleagues. The challenge here is that not all of their colleagues might be able to comprehend sign language or even hear them.

Related: Can You Be Fired for Being Hearing Impaired? (Answered)

How to Work With a Deaf or Hearing Impaired Person

how to communicate with a hearing impaired person

Here are great tips to communicate and work with them effectively.

Gain their attention

There are ways that you can utilize in gaining your deaf colleagues’ attention without making them feel uncomfortable. These include calling their name, gently tapping their arm or shoulder, flickering the light on and off, tapping on their tables, and waving at them.

Be certain that their hearing aids work fine

When their hearing aids are in good condition, then there will be a great improvement in the ability to communicate with their colleagues more easily. If their hearing aids are not functioning properly, you may recommend that they visit an audiologist to assist in fixing them.

Ensure you face hearing-impaired persons

When trying to communicate with deaf persons, try as much as possible to ensure that you are facing each other or look them directly in the eye to make them aware that it’s them you’re speaking to.

I understand how discomforting it can be looking someone directly in the eye but, in this case, it’s worth it. Also, ensure that your mouth is not covered since some hearing-impaired persons might be able to read your lips and understand what you are trying to communicate.

Maintain a distance

I recommend that you stand about one or two meters away from your deaf colleague, especially those with hearing aids, those who can read lips, and signers. This is because the level of noise reduces over distance.

Prevent background noise

To improve communication with your deaf colleague, ensure that you veer from or move away from a noisy background such as televisions, radios, air conditioners, or other colleagues talking in the background.

Use good lighting

Optimizing good lighting will improve communication, particularly for hearing impaired persons who can lip read. Also, ensure that there are no backlighting or silhouette effects in your office for your communication with the special person to be effective.

Related: Can a Deaf Person Work in a Warehouse? (Answered)

Talk to them clearly and steadily at a slow pace

how to work with a person who is deaf or hearing impaired

When speaking to your deaf colleague, try talking to them as clearly as you can at a slow pace. Avoid shouting but don’t mumble so as not to distort your lip patterns, most especially for lip readers.

Repeat and Rephrase – for a better understanding

Another means of working efficiently with a deaf worker is trying to repeat the same thing you are trying to communicate in a different way such as utilizing handouts, diagrams, and more.

Pen it down

There is no harm in writing down the key messages that you’re working on for your hearing impaired colleagues. This will help in making them understand what you’re talking about, thereby resulting in a productive output for your organization.

Make use of facial and body expressions

This is also a great way to communicate efficiently. But try as much as possible not to overdo your facial expression and mimes so that they won’t feel uncomfortable.

Related: Can a Deaf Person Work on a Construction Site? (Answered)

Check for feedback

Always remember to inquire for feedback from your deaf co-worker to ascertain whether they understand all you have been discussing with them. Also, avoid the use of yes and no question but rather utilize open-ended questions.

It is also notable to know that their smiling faces and consistent nods don’t mean that they understood all that you’ve said. This is why checking for feedback if they understand is very important.

Employ the services of an interpreter or utilize sign language

Organizations can utilize the services of a deaf relay interpreter (DRI) to improve communication with their employees who are suffering from hearing loss.

Or better still, use sign language to communicate with them.

Although not everyone knows sign language, there are several resources online that can be learned from. Employers may encourage their workers to learn sign language. Even if it’s just a simple “hi”, “hello”, or “how can we do this task?” it will go a long way in making their jobs easier and faster.

Ask your deaf colleagues the most effective way to communicate with them

Inquiring about the best means of communicating with your deaf colleagues can go a long way in making your job very easy. Getting them and their attention involved in your organization’s day-to-day activities won’t be much of a problem.

Can All Deaf People Lip Read?

No, not all persons suffering from hearing impairment can lip-read.

This is because the degree of their hearing loss varies from each other and can affect their communication ability.

How to Work With a Person Who Is Deaf or Hearing Impaired


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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