How Does a Deaf Person Communicate?

an old man with his hand on his ear

If you experience hearing loss, it makes it more difficult to communicate with people around you. If you see an audiologist, they can fit you with hearing aids to improve your hearing and alleviate those communication difficulties. However, when a person loses their hearing entirely, they cannot rely on hearing aids to help them communicate. A deaf person communicates in two main ways – sign language and lip reading. To learn more about these methods of communication, continue reading. 

Lip reading

Anybody can experience hearing loss at any point in their lives, but you have a greater risk as you age. When you notice your ability to hear is declining, you may see an audiologist and use hearing aids. However, as your hearing declines further, hearing aids will not always be effective and you may need to find other ways of understanding people, which is where lip reading comes in. 

If somebody becomes deaf later in life, it is easier for them to interpret speech through lip reading by interpreting the movement of the lips and tongue. Facial expressions and body language are also an important part of lip reading because they help a deaf person to understand the tone of what is being said and the emotion behind those words. 

Lip readers also pay attention to the context of the conversation because this narrows down vocabulary and help to differentiate between words. There are a lot of words that sound the same and are made using the same mouth movements. This means that only around 30% of words in the English language can be accurately differentiated, even by the most experienced lip reader. But understanding the context of the conversation helps them to work out which word you are using. For example, if you are having a conversation about the weather, the person is saying sun, not son. 

If a person still has some residual hearing with the help of hearing aids, these sounds can also help them to make lip reading more accurate. 

Learning to lip read takes a lot of practice, especially for somebody that was born deaf or lost their hearing at an early age. If you seek advice from an audiologist, they will be able to help find some lip-reading classes. 

Sign language 

Sign language is a more accurate way for deaf people to communicate because they can differentiate between different words without confusion. There are a lot of different forms of sign language used around the world. In the US, there are three main types that are used: American Sign Language, Pidgin Signed English and Signing Exact English. 

American Sign Language is a purely visual language that has its own set of grammar rules separate from spoken languages. The graphic nature of the language makes it easier for non-verbal people to understand the basic concepts. American Sign Language cannot be written as it is a separate language entirely, but it can be translated. 

Pidgin Signed English is the most used form of sign language in the US. The vocabulary used is taken from American Sign Language, but it follows the same structure as spoken English. Simple words that do not carry information are dropped from sentences. This allows a person to sign at the same time as speaking because it is easier to keep up with sentences.

Signing Exact English aims to mimic spoken English as closely as possible. Although it is based on American Sign Language, the addition of more words, tenses, suffixes and prefixes allow for more complex and descriptive sentences. For example, in American Sign Language, there is a single sign for all synonyms of the word beauty. But Signing Exact English allows you to give the sign P and the suffix -ful for the word pretty or the sign B and the suffix -ful for beautiful.

Hearing aids and profound hearing loss

Individuals with profound hearing loss are often surprised to learn they can improve their ability to hear by using hearing aids. Behind-the-ear hearing aids are powerful, comfortable devices that can be customized with features to directly benefit your specific needs. If you believe you have profound hearing loss, it’s important to seek the advice of an audiologist to have a hearing test. After this evaluation, the audiologist will discuss your results and recommend the right device for your needs.

If you are experiencing hearing issues and you think that you may need the advice of an audiologist, you can call the Pacific Audiology Clinic at 503-719-4208.