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4 Methods of Communicating for the Deaf and Hard or Hearing

Published on May 09, 2016 by Graham Newnum

Communicating Deaf and Hard of Hearing.jpg

CyraCom's Deaf and Hard of Hearing 101 whitepaper, authored by our ASL Center Manager Victor Collazo, focuses on the history, culture and intricacies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HOH) community. Effective patient-provider communication is essential, and there are many different methods of Deaf communication. You can download the full resource below.

Not all Deaf people communicate in American Sign Language (ASL); estimates of ASL users vary from 100,000 to 2 million in the United States, and many adults who become deaf late in life never learn ASL. As a result, when ASL interpreters first meet a patient, they pay close attention to assess which methods the Deaf or HOH person uses to communicate. These include:


American Sign Language is the official language of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in the United States, and all interpreters for the community are trained in it. ASL has its own grammar and syntax, like any verbal language.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing ASL Interpreter


English Sign Language is not an actual language; rather, it places ASL signs in the same order as English grammar and syntax to help the Deaf and HOH learn English.


The Rochester Method resulted from a 1878 experiment by Zenas Westervelt, a deaf educator from the New York School for the Deaf in Rochester, NY. Westervelt intended to replace sign language and encourage English-only communication through manual spelling. For a time, teachers and students were restricted to using the Rochester Method to communicate. But by the 1960s, most schools had abandoned it; teachers and students alike refused to use it due to its tedious and time-consuming nature.


More than 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, and as many as 88% of hearing parents with one Deaf child may not learn ASL. To communicate with the Deaf individual in the hearing household, families often invent home signs, which naturally differ from family to family. As a result, these signs are often incomprehensible to those who understand ASL. The use and spread of sign language may be limited if Deaf children do not receive language acquisition in early development.

Now you know that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing use many methods to communicate. But did you know that sign language was once outlawed? Or that certain terms hearing people use to be politeare actually considered offensive within the Deaf community? Read the full whitepaper to learn more.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing