Faculty & Staff Resources

Communicating with Deaf & Hard of Hearing Students


Although they may wear hearing aids, many students rely primarily on lip reading. Even
highly skilled lip readers usually comprehend only 30-40% of what is said. Also, lip reading
students frequently miss class members’ comments and have difficulty understanding
instructors who cover their lips, face the chalkboard, move around, or have a mustache.
People who wear hearing aids may not hear sounds the way others do. Hearing aids amplify all
sounds and can make small noises, loud air conditioners, hissing fluorescent light fixtures,
traffic noise and the like, overwhelming. Sometimes people with hearing aids hear only
jumbled and disjointed fragments.
An interpreter may be necessary to convey the oral message to the deaf student by the use of
sign language as described in detail below.
Deaf student in class There are many ways to make communication more effective with a person
who is deaf. Santa Monica College hires sign-language interpreters to go to classes and
meetings with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. This is the most effective method of
communication for such students.
If a sign-language interpreter is not available, such as if a deaf student drops by your
office without making an appointment or if you happen upon the student in the cafeteria,
here are some helpful hints for communicating:
      If the person lipreads, try speaking slowly and clearly, using short phrases. Do not
raise your voice!
      If the person does not understand something you say, try rephrasing it. Don’t repeat
the same thing over and over.
      Do not cover your mouth.
      Maintain eye contact.
      Not all deaf people lipread, so it may not work! Try using gestures and pantomime.
      It is not considered rude to offer a deaf person paper and a pen in order to
      If you know the American Sign Language alphabet, use it!
As a general rule, deaf people appreciate any attempts you make at trying to communicate
with them.
Luckily, SMC hires qualified interpreters for classes, labs, field trips, and exams whenever
there is a stringent need for exact and efficient communication. The times that are
necessary to communicate without an interpreter should be few.