Working with someone with a hearing impairment

If you know that you are working with someone with a hearing impairment, please make sure you discuss with them how they like to work and if they have any specific requirements. 

Whilst not all hearing-impaired people are the same, here are some good general tips:

Communication tips:

  • Make sure you have the person's attention before you start speaking — make eye contact
  • Avoid standing in front of windows or a light source, as your face will be in shadow, making it difficult to read facial expressions and to lip-read
  • Speak clearly and at your normal pace, using natural facial expressions and gestures
  • If you're talking to a deaf person and a hearing person, focus on both of them
  • Keep your voice at a normal level — don't shout
  • Talk directly to the hearing impaired person and not to their BSL interpreter or note-taker
  • Use plain English and don't waffle
  • Find a suitable place to talk, with good lighting and away from noise and distractions
  • Face them — avoid moving and turning your face away while speaking to help with lip-reading
  • Avoid covering your mouth or face while talking as this makes lip-reading difficult
  • If someone doesn't understand what you've said, try saying it in a different way
  • Repeat as many times as is necessary. Never say "it doesn't matter'

Delivery tips:

  • Allow the hearing impaired person to choose where to sit in the room — they may need to be at the front in order to lip-read
  • Consider a horseshoe set up for group discussions
  • Minimise background noise for the best listening experience
  • Encourage members of the group to raise their hands when contributing to discussions
  • Repeat questions from the floor
  • Indicate who is speaking if others make contributions
  • Recap significant ideas or contributions in group discussions
  • Provide session content and PowerPoint files at least 24 hours prior to the session
  • Ensure all video clips/DVDs are provided with subtitles (please check these are fit for purpose as automated captions can be of very poor quality)
  • Provide all audio clips with a transcript
  • Upload lecture capture via ChiPlayer
  • Note important vocabulary and concepts on the whiteboard
  • Don't expect a deaf person to be able to follow a lecture/seminar and take notes as this is not possible when lip-reading
  • Allow time for a deaf student to read electronic notes or follow a BSL interpreter, and then process the information, before responding
  • Indicate when a topic is closed and you are moving on to a new topic
  • Hearing aids work best at a distance of less than 1.5 metres
  • Hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal, they just amplify all sound
  • Encourage inclusivity in sessions, providing opportunities to work with everyone and ensuring that group work activities are accessible i.e. listening tasks
  • Be aware that lip-reading is extremely tiring and is 75% guess work!

Designing for users who are deaf or hard of hearing

  • Do write in plain language
  • Don't use complicated words of figures of speech
  • Do use subtitles or provide transcripts for videos
  • Don't put content in audio or video only
  • Do use a linear logical layout
  • Don't make complex layouts and menus
  • Do break up content with sub-headings, images and videos
  • Don't make users read long blocks of content
  • Do let users ask for their preferred communication support when booking appointments
  • Don't make telephone the only means of contact for users

Still need help?