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      Communicating with staff who are deaf or have hearing loss

      Good communication skills among colleagues are so important for people with hearing loss and can be just as important as the provision of equipment or communication support.

      Colleagues can feel anxious or unsure about how to communicate with someone with hearing loss in their team, which can result in colleagues with hearing loss being excluded – both during meetings and social interaction. Deaf awareness training and, if applicable, basic sign language training, would be extremely beneficial for all team members who will be working with someone with hearing loss on a regular basis.

      Action on Hearing Loss runs a wide variety of sign language and deaf awareness training course across the UK that can help build staff confidence and enable staff to develop the skills they need to communicate with people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Training can sometimes be paid for by Access to Work.

      Simple communication techniques, such as speaking clearly and not covering your mouth when speaking, should be used by all those working with staff who are deaf or have hearing loss.

      Communication tips

      "Making sure you face me can work wonders, but, for me, nothing compares to being included in discussions and feeling part of the team, even if it

      Is your meeting deaf aware?

      • Have you checked in advance if anyone needs communication support?

      • Have microphones and loop systems been switched on?

      • Sit in a horseshoe shape so all attendees can see each other and identify more easily who’s speaking.

      • On a teleconference, make sure you say your name before speaking.

      • Use a meeting agenda to give a clear reference point for everyone to follow.

      • Put your hand up before speaking, so everyone can identify the speaker.

      • Make sure only one person is talking at a time.

      All employees at Sass and Belle are offered an opportunity to learn BSL and most do take up the lessons. The classes are excellent for team building as well as providing staff with a new skill. We currently employ one Deaf BSL-user in our design team. His colleagues communicate with him using his preferred language, so he feels part of the team.
      Richard Stone Managing Director, Sass and Belle

      Sign Language


      Sign language involves a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English.

      If you work with someone whose first language is British Sign Language or Irish Sign Language (BSL/ISL), it means a lot to be able to learn a few signs. We've put the finger spelling alphabet below.

      The important thing about using sign language, like learning any new language, is to not be afraid to give it a go. Your colleague who uses sign language will greatly appreciate you trying, even if you get something wrong.

      If an employee who uses sign language joins your organisation then it can be really useful to organise sign language training so that your team can get the basics. Action on Hearing Loss runs BSL training. Also see our section on communication support.


      Ben Knighton

      "My workmates have been really supportive. They are aware of how to get my attention and know that I prefer to correspond by email or chat online."

      Read Ben's story

      Free Employers' toolkit

      Our toolkit contains a handy guide for employers, plus a selection of posters, to help you create a more inclusive workplace for people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

      Get your free copy