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Assisting Communication with a person who has a SHI


    The guidelines to assist communication with a person who has a Sight and Hearing Impairment (SHI) is below.      These guidelines are to assist communication with a person with a SHI as opposed to a person who is DeafBlind.  We, who have a SHI generally have low or no vision and have impaired hearing, but have some level of hearing and the main form of communication is by way of interactive verbal aural speech.  There is a distinction hear that people who are DeafBlind generally use other forms of communication than interactive verbal aural speech.  The use of the word ‘interactive’ here is to indicate that the speech is sent and received, not just one way.   We who have a SHI make up about half of all people who have low or no vision.  While people who are DeafBlind only make up a very small number of the people who have low or no vision.  While the term DeafBlind has been used to encompass people who have a SHI as well, the distinction made here between people who have a SHI and people who are DeafBlind is very important hear, as the guidelines below would not be appropriate for people who are DeafBlind, taking into account the distinction that has been made here.


Guidelines of how to assist communications with a person with a SHI:


·        Speak moderately slowly.


·        Speak as clearly as possible.  Do not slur or run your words together.  Use your vocal chords more than your breath in forming your words.  That is if you speak like you are whispering even if it is done loudly will be hard for a person with a hearing impairment to understand.  


·        Try to speak at one tone level.  That is do not raise or lower the pitch of your voice.  While speaking at a monotone is not very exciting to listen to it greatly improves the comprehension for a person who has a hearing impairment. 


·        Speak at a moderate and constant volume.  Do not shout as this causes the words to be distorted and unclear. 


·        Any other sounds that occur while you are speaking will make it very hard for a person with a hearing impairment to understand you.  That is background noise, echoes or another person speaking while you are talking could make what you are saying completely incomprehensible to a person who has a hearing impairment.  


·        If you have repeated a word several times and the person with a hearing impairment still does not understand it, try to choose another word or phrase that means the same thing.


·        If a person with a hearing impairment cannot understand one word you are saying spell it out using the phonetic alphabet.  While many people with a hearing impairment may not know the phonetic alphabet by usage we all will become more familiar with it.  If you use other words to try to spell out a word other than using the phonetic alphabet this could cause a lot of confusion and the word you have used to attempt to spell out a word may itself not be understood by the person with a hearing impairment. A table of the phonetic alphabet, which is also known as the NATO phonetic alphabet is below:


NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Letter, phonetic letter

A, Alpha

B, Bravo

C, Charlie

D, Delta

E, Echo

F, Foxtrot

G, Golf

H, Hotel

I, India

J, Juliet

K, Kilo

L, Lima

M, Mike

N, November

O, Oscar

P, Papa

Q, Quebec

R, Romeo

S, Sierra

T, Tango

U, Uniform

V, Victor

W, Whiskey

X, X-ray

Y, Yankee

Z, Zulu


  These guidelines also can be used to assist communication with a person who has a single sensory hearing impairment, that is a person who does not have vision impairment as well.  That is in situations where the communication takes place where each person speaking cannot see each other, as in such cases of, communicating over the telephone.


  There is a lot here to remember and understand, and we realistically cannot expect perfection, but the more we practice these techniques the more we all will find it easier.  Also many of these techniques can be generally useful for better communication for everyone.  Hopefully all individuals and organisations particularly community service provider organisations become aware of these guidelines and use them.




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