Hard of Hearing and Deafness

People who have hearing loss may be deaf or hard of hearing. Like other disabilities, hearing loss has a wide variety of degrees. People who are hard of hearing may require assistive devices when communicating. While some people may use sign language, notes or hearing aids when communicating, others may also use email, pagers, TTY telephone service or Bell Canada Relay Service. 

Here are some suggestions to help you interact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing: 

  • Always ask how you can help. Don’t shout. 
  • Avoid referring to the disability or using phrases like “handicapped”. 
  • Attract the person’s attention before speaking. The best way is a gentle touch on the shoulder or gently waving your hand. 
  • Make sure you are in a well-lighted area where the person can see your face. 
  • Look at and speak directly to the person. Address the person, not their interpreter. 
  • If necessary, ask if another method of communicating would be easier, for example a pen and paper. 
  • Keep your face clearly visible when speaking. 
  • Be clear and precise when giving directions and repeat or rephrase if necessary. Make sure you have been understood. 
  • Service animals are working and have to pay attention at all times. Refrain from engaging with the animal. 
  • Any personal (e.g., financial) matters should be discussed in a 
  • private room to avoid other people overhearing 
  • Be patient. Communication for people who are deaf is different because their first language may not be English. It may be American Sign Language (ASL). 
  • If the person uses a hearing aid, try to speak in an area with few competing sounds. 


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