Deaf and Hearing Communication Strategies Survey
By Rebecca Orton
Topic - Language and Communication
1. Are you deaf of hearing parents and did you go to a residential
or day school? 1, 1, 1?, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 (8 plus 4 in other, total = 12)
2. Are you deaf of hearing parents and were you mainstreamed?
1, 1, 1, 1, 1 (5 plus 6 in other, total = 11)
3. Are you deaf of deaf parents and did you go to a residential or day
school? 1, 1 (2 plus 1 in other, total = 3)
4. Are you deaf of deaf parents and were you mainstreamed?
1, 1 (2 plus 2 in other, total = 4)
5. Are you hearing members of the deaf community (are you hearing of
hearing parents)? 1, 1, 1, 1 (4 plus 1 in other, total = 5)
6. other (explain)______________________________________
Both 2 & 4, deaf & mainstreamed, 1 deaf parent that was mainstreamed, 1
Both 1 & 2, Went to 2 day schools for the deaf & 1 mainstreamed school
before 8th grade. Mainstreamed after 8th grade, Gallaudet 1996 graduate.
5, hearing, I'm an outsider looking in, but I feel very welcomed by the
2, Late deafened at 28
Both 3 & 4. I'm deaf of deaf and was mainstreamed (both in a school with
a deaf program and in a school where I was the only deaf student) up
until 9th grade, when I transferred to a residential deaf school.
Both 1 & 2, mainstreamed until went to school at NTID.
Both 1 & 2, First 6 years at New Jersey School for the Deaf (1950-1956)
then transferred to a public school (hearing).
Both 1 & 2, kindergarden through 8th grade at oral deaf school, 9th grade
through 12th grade at public high school.
There was 35 total answers above, but actual number of informants was 28.
Deaf informants of deaf parents were difficult to find. The answers came
mostly from deaf informants of hearing parents, and hearing informants.
Even so, there was quite a variety within the deaf informants of hearing
parents with their educational background and language as seen in the
open-ended questions toward the end of the survey. There was even a
cochlear implanted deaf informant, a late-deafened informant, and two oral
deaf informants. One of the oral deaf informants even answered the
survey as if he was hearing.
For those of you who are hearing, please skip to the last two questions.
How did you communicate with your family?
1. ASL, (or sign)
2. Sim-Com, Total Communication
4. contact sign (PSE), (or signed in English word order with
7. lip-reading, speech-reading
9. other (please specify)
12. Someone else interpreted, usually family
13. fingerspelling only
14. limited signs
A lot of other ways of communicating was listed in the "other" selection.
It looks like people will do whatever it takes to communicate. But as
indicated in the open-ended questions towards the end of the survey, if a
person feels that the topic of conversation is not important, then their
motivation wanes and then they give up. The fact that a couple of
informants answered number 8 for guessing shows that communication isn't
always understood immediately and with a little thought, might be
understood. Or it could mean bluffing as well. Some of the informants
did admit to bluffing in their answers to the open-ended questions below.
4, 4, 3, 7, 3, 7, 4, 6, 4, 15, 3, 7, 8, 7, 3, 4, 1, 13, 7, 3, 7, 1, 1, 7,
4, 3, 1, 7, 3, 6, 7, 3, 6, 3, 1, 7, 3
(5 ASL, 10 talking, 6 contact sign, 3 writing, 11 lip-reading, 1
guessing, 1 fingerspelling only, 1 homesigns)
Siblings (Brothers & Sisters)?
4, 4, 3, 7, 3, 7, 4, 1, 4, 15, 3, 7, 8, 7, 4, 1, 3, 7, 1, 1, 7, 4, 1, 1,
3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 3, 4, 13, 9
(8 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 7 talking, 7 contact sign, 7 lip-reading, 1 guessing,
1 gesture, 1 fingerspelling only, 1 homesigns)
6, 9, 7, 12, 3, 7, 3, 7, 6, 8, 3, 7, 8, 7, 3, 3, 7, 1, 1, 8, 7, 7, 3, 2,
3, 7, 8, 3, 7, 7, 3, 3, 7, 6, 3
(2 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 11 talking, 3 writing, 13 lip-reading, 4 guessing, 1
gesture, 1 someone else interpreted)
Aunts & Uncles?
6, 9, 7, 12, 13, 3, 7, 3, 7, 9, 6, 3, 7, 8, 7, 3, 3, 7, 1, 6, 8, 7, 7, 1,
3, 2, 3, 7, 8, 3, 7, 7, 6, 1, 7, 6, 3
(3 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 9 talking, 5 writing, 13 lip-reading, 3 guessing, 2
gesture, 1 someone else interpreted, 1 fingerspelling only)
6, 9, 7, 12, 3, 7, 3, 7, 9, 6, 3, 7, 8, 7, 3, 3, 7, 1, 6, 7, 7, 3, 2, 3,
7, 8, 3, 7, 7, 6, 3, 6, 3, 6, 7
(1 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 10 talking, 6 writing, 13 lip-reading, 2 guessing, 2
gesture, 1 someone else interpreted)
Immediate Family: (12 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 16 talking, 12 contact sign, 3
writing, 18 lip-reading, 2 guessing, 1 gesture, 2 fingerspelling only, 2
Summary of Significant Data: (25 signing, 18 lip-reading, 16 talking...)
Extended Family (6 ASL, 3 Sim-Com, 30 talking, 1 contact sign, 14
writing, 39 lip-reading, 9 guessing, 5 gesture, 3 someone else
interpreted, 1 fingerspelling only)
Summary of Significant Data: (39 lip-reading, 30 talking, 14 writing, 9
Looks like most deaf informants had to resort to lip-reading and talking
with most of their extended family members. The immediate family has a
strong tendency to sign to the deaf informant, but not most extended
members of the family. With extended family, writing tended to be used.
There is a significant amount of guessing occurring with extended family
How did you communicate with your neighbors?
(same kind of answers as above)
6, 9, 7, 9, 13, 14, 1, 3, 7, 3, 7, 9, 12, 6, 4, 3, 7, 8, 7, 3, 3, 7, 9,
6, 3, 7, 6, 1, 1, 6, 7, 6, 3, 7, 9, 2, 3, 7, 8, 1, 13, 6, 7, 3, 3, 6, 7,
6, 13, 6, 3, 6, 7
(4 ASL, 1 Sim-Com, 11 talking, 1 contact sign, 11 writing, 14
lip-reading, 2 guessing, 5 gesture, 1 someone else interpreted, 3
fingerspelling only, 1 limited signs)
Here, informants appear to communicate with their neighbors in a variety
of ways. Lip-reading and talking were pre-dominant again. Writing was
also prominent. No single way stands out most strongly over the others as
compared to communicating with the family.
How did you communicate with your classmates or schoolmates, if you are
or were in school? (same kind of answers as above)
1, 1, 1, 3, 7, 3, 7, 1, 1, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7, 8, 1?, 1?, 3, 7, 1, 14, 1, 2,
7, 4, 1, 6, 7, 14, 1, 2, 2, 3, 7, 8, 13, 6, 1, 7, 3, 1, 1, 1, 3, 6, 7
One answer was 1 -- through an interpreter
(16 ASL, 3 Sim-Com, 7 talking, 2 contact sign, 1 SEE, 4 writing, 10
lip-reading, 2 guessing, 1 fingerspelling only, 2 limited signs)
Analysis: ASL is the most used mode of communication with classmates.
Lip-reading and talking is not so pre-dominant with classmates and has
taken second place here.
One answer was everyone: 7, 10, 11 (lip-reading was included above,
This informant was extraordinary in her efforts to communicate. ALD is
an acronym for Assistive Listening Devices. She knows some sign as well.
Was it easy for family, neighbors, or classmates to understand you and for
you to understand them? (a = yes, b = no, or c = depends on situation)
Family: a, a, a, a, c, c, a, c?, a, c, a, a, a, a, a, c, a, a, a, c, a, c
( 15 yes, 8 depends)
Neighbors: b, c, c, c, b, c, c, c?, a, c, c, c, b, c, c, c, c, a, a, c,
(3 yes, 3 no, 17 depends)
Not too bad...there were some misunderstanding and repeats from time to
I had a hard time with some neighbors, it depended on how well they could
communicate and understand my deafness.
Classmates: a, a, c, c, a, c, c, c?, a, c, a, c, a, c, a, a, c, a, a, a,
(12 yes, 11 depends)
One answer was everyone (included above): c
This data corroborates my analysis above. It looks like family was the
easiest to understand, then classmates. Understanding neighbors depended
more on the situation and could not be said to be unequivocally
affirmative or negative. This analysis supports the analysis that a
variety of communication methods were used with neighbors.
This question is for those of you who signed in school:
How does signing with your classmates compare with communicating with
your non-signing family or neighbors?
Fluently signing with deaf classmates than others.
Like night and day!! My ASL-using classmates cannot be compared with
the signing skills of my family. I could share whatever I wanted to say
with my classmates without having to slow down or repeat myself or to
check up on them to be sure they were following me, etc.
It is big differ(ence) total of communication (between) inter- hearites
My deaf classmates were like my brothers and sisters in my real home.
Their communication was pretty, easy, smooth, comfortable, less
misunderstood, less frustrated, wonderful and pleasant while we were
talking ASL. This was not like oral that is final, well known result as
failure in communicating and "sucker of world". My non-signing family and
neighbors were not enough in caring me for knowing. For example, while
they were talking, always I nagged my mom, dad or siblings for telling me
what they were saying. Mostly they used abstracts (compression of words)
of words instead of explaining fully so I could(n't) guess or understand
what they mean in communicating. They think talking with lips and reading
is easy way to communication with hearing people in future. When Deafs do
not follow their way as they grow up fully, in real world, ASL easily win
over hearing people's method of teaching oral because most Deafs like to
talk easy and comfortable with ASL rather than oral. Why is that system
of hearing people fails for DEAFS so it is "sucker of world" I think
hearing people shall give up their porky control as long time method of
teaching oral continues to fail for most DEAFS. Simply, hearing people
shall be treating DEAFS like Indians that have own languages and cultures
as they shall not experiment DEAFS with different methods for replacing
with "hearing" rather than ASL. I understand that hearing people follow
Alexander Graham Bell (AGB) like smelling money because there is still a
lot of money growing. It came from phone access AGB invented as AGB was
This is not a really clear question. It is always easier to communicate
in sign than through writing if both are fluent in sign. If signing was
too tough, we switched to writing. I probably have had longer
conversations with my family and neighbors via writing, though, than any
conversation with schoolmates in sign or writing up to college since
school situations rarely allow lot of time for people to sit down and
converse deeply. Of course that changed when I attended college.
Not sure what the question mean. I believe equally the same. Most of my
classmates signed. Few hearing classmates learned to sign and I speak to
them if needed.
My family knew no sign language. Some of my friends used SEE and ASL in
school. I had a different communication from school and from family.
The same. I signed ASL the whole time, with my classmates and my family.
I wasn't that close with my neighbors. Their children did come over once
in a while and I would teach them sign language.
Since I'd communicate directly with my signing classmates, it would be
easier for me than communicating with non-signing family/neighbors
By far the best....felt like a part that is working smoothly.
I write to my neighbors to communicate. There is a wall between me and my
neighbors and I feel I do not know what kind of people they are. I could
feel the limitations to communicating through writing whereas I did not
at all with my signing family. I could use my facial expression, body
language and ASL without any struggle.
Total(ly) different. Mostly talk at home.
Everyone at home signed so it didn't compare because kids at school
couldn't sign as well as my family...
Hard to say when I was a kid, it did not matter to me.
It is quite different feeling for me to communicate cuz I use ASL in the
class and write/talk with family. ASL is so beautiful!!!!
No difference, really.
I am not sure what you mean by this. I guess it is lots easier to sign
with my classmates than my non-signing neighbors.
Of course my analysis will not be cut and dried, but mostly
impressionistic. It seems to me that the difference between
communicating with signing classmates and other people was noticeable
among the majority of the informants that answered this question. Signing
classmates were favored over other people, even close family except for
when a deaf informant has fluent ASL signing deaf parents.
These next two questions are for everyone in general, both hearing and
deaf: How did you cope with the situation if someone didn't understand
It is usually the other way around. In the beginning, before I had
speech therapy, it was more difficult for people to understand me. Now,
after speech therapy, they understand me fine. I don't remember what
people did when they couldn't understand me.. when I was younger. I do
remember someone coming to me years later, and commenting on how much
better they could understand me now.
If we were communicating in sign language, I would simply slow down
and/or repeat myself. If that did not work, we would resort to writing
on pen/paper and that always worked out fine. Since I have great
writing/reading skills, communicating on paper has never been a problem
for me. It's not my most preferred method of communication, but it will
do in a pinch.
I try it for 3 time by talk if not then write down if not forget it go to
I never really had a problem with anyone that I can remember off the top
of my head, as far as communication goes. When I first came to
Gallaudet, though, I would use gestures, a little bit of limited sign and
sometimes I think I would rely on hearing friends that understood ASL to
communicate with another Deaf person.
All of my friends that are deaf know that I am a student of sign language
and that I still have a lot to learn. I think that they do not feel
uncomfortable when I ask them to repeat themselves. Every now and then I
do become confused or just completely miss the point. Depending if it is
a one on one conversation or a group conversation, I ask the person to
repeat what they just said. I find that even though that may hamper the
conversation, I learn something.
Before learning to sign, I would gesture, or write to communicate. Now
that I know how to sign (and LOVE it!) I tend to SIGN even with hearing
people if they don't understand the first time I say something. It may
sound peculiar, but I consider ASL my second language now. I sign when
addressing babies -- deaf or hearing -- and talk with parents (again,
hearing or deaf) about how babies learn to sign prior to becoming
lingual. I sign during talking with my new puppy. I want him to learn
sign lang. and commands in sign. Outside of voice/hearing or sign/deaf,
if someone doesn't understand something I say, I use examples, or
metaphors -- images, both verbal and physical (air drawing with my
I did not care as I depend on situation that was not important (depends
on the situation). I sometimes knew that they pretend to understand
what I said. I sometimes felt frustrated with hearing people rather than
Deafs when they did not understand me.
I would react in a few ways, depending on how I felt, and most recently,
how I communicated to someone. If I voiced, and was not understood the
first time, I would repeat it. If I felt unsure about the situation,
person, topic, etc., I would repeat with hesitation possibly in a
different word order. Sometimes I would not respond, or ignore the
situation or perhaps respond with a question. In regards to signing, I
am more understanding to myself, and to the other person, whom I am
signing with, because I know ASL/signed English is a 2nd language for me
and I tend to be more slow, and attempting to be more observant. If
someone doesn't not understand me, I try to accept it for what it is, me
a new signer, the other person receptive skill off, or missing the visual
cue at that moment. I remind myself it is part of the learning process.
I try to rephrase in the communication mode being used, usually-- signing
it another way. If I suspect the problem is in lack of the other's
fluency in the very mode, I may decide to switch modes. This is tough to
answer, because I am a very cross-modal signer, as well as multilingual.
I'm not always conscious of when I change my signing style. In general,
I will match what I see of the person's communication style; mirroring. I
will use gesture to supplement almost anything I say, and have
communicated quite fine by gesture alone in response to strangers'
questions. If I am really trying to get a very specific word across, I
tend to revert to writing it down, since few people are that expert at
reading fingerspelling, even deaf people. I do not lipread very well, by
the way, and usually need situational context to let me catch on. I'm
worse at speaking, and virtually never use my ability. I prefer to get
complex ideas across in writing with strangers, etc. My current
boyfriend is learning ASL (he knows BSL) but we continue to communicate
mainly through writing and e-mail, plus gestures and just being sensitive
to each other. Occasionally I've mouthed specific words to him in trying
to clarify certain signs. That's also part of ASL. I consider myself
deaf, being profoundly deaf from birth. Now, coping emotionally with
being misunderstood? Hey, I'm used to it :). Nobody ever understands true
genius... (being vain here). Usually I don't get frustrated with
strangers, but when my family is particularly abstruse on understanding a
single word I'm trying to get across, yeah, I go nuts... It's like "what,
over 20 years and I can't get this damn sign across to you?" ( Signing is
the major mode I use with my family). So yeah, I guess the higher my
expectations, the more frustrated I get when these expectations are not
met because I always try to adjust my communication to fit the situation,
whether consciously or not.
Keep trying and not give up.
Wrote down what I wanted him to know, or showed an example of the subject
and then tried again. For communication problems, I think of my efforts
to communicate with profoundly hard of hearing relatives and my deaf
I try to be patient until we have communicated but sometimes when it does
not seem important I do bluff and go away.
When communication gets rough, my first instinct is to code-switch, and
if that fails, try writing, diagrams, pictures. For example, [name] and I
encountered a Deaf Signer on the street in Prague; she knew Czech sign
language, but seemed to have had a very limited exposure to ASL or
FSL---I wasn't really sure. But between gestures and facial expressions
and the fact that she used a tiny bit of voice, we were able to just
barely understand each other. It later occurred to me that since I had a
map, I could have easily spoken about where we were living and what we
were visiting. Since the Vltava, the river that runs through the city,
has a distinctive shape, I might have been able to not even use the map,
simply diagramming in the air in the usual ASL manner.
I would cope by writing things down or having a person repeat things more
till I got what they said to me. It was frustrating sometimes. If
someone did not understand me, then I would try my best to communicate in
a better way for them....but most of the time people understood me.
Usually I would grab a paper and pen and start writing.
I usually would repeat what I had said.
I usually either tried writing it down it (or) just forgetting it
I simply refer to writing or using gestures.
Ask them repeat or write
If gestures didn't work, then would write it down
Ask people to repeat. Of course, it was very frustrating when
communication was not completed.
For deafies, if they don't understand my pure ASL, I have to alternate
the way of ASL as I can use illustration. In my life, there is no problem
but there is few deafies who did not understand me well. For hearing, if
they don't understand what I say in voice, then I would write to
communicate. But most of time, I do writing in communication which is
much easier for me.
Gestures or writing. The last resort might be "never mind."
Analysis: Informants tended to misunderstand this question above to mean
the question below, which was significant. Apparently, it is more the
case that the informant didn't understand someone rather than someone
didn't understand the informant. I ended up having to include the
question in my survey later since it seems so significant to so many
informants. There is a variety of coping skills evident above. Various
attitudes expressed about communication ranged from the negatively
pessimistic and militant to the positively optimistic and flexible.
How did you cope with the situation if you didn't understand someone?
I used to apologize all the time.. I'm sorry, I'm hard of hearing...
could you please repeat yourself... Now I explain that I have a hearing
loss and ask them to repeat themselves or rephrase what they said...."
speak a little slower" etc.... (No more apologies!)
If I don't understand, I tend to react in a few ways: pretend I do
understand ( if the signer is too fast), and if I can't get away with
that or absolutely feel that I need to know, I ask the person/signer to
repeat themself. If in a verbal situation and I didn't understand what
was said, depending on content, I would have to ask to repeat themselves
if necessary. Something I find out that I learn later what I need to
Asked them to repeat; then asked them to write it down
If I can control the conversation I can understand more rather than the
opposite party controlling the conversation.
I was mainstreamed all along the way, but they watched my hearing loss
from Kindergarten, and I was usually placed in a front-row seat or other
accommodation that I wasn't even aware of until thinking about it years
later. With an October birthday I was one of the oldest kids in the
class and attribute my top grades to being more mature than most. But I
also had plenty of time for homework since I didn't socialize much, which
might be due to the hearing loss - it was becoming a problem in high
school. I was #2 in my senior class of over 200 at Waterloo Central
(1974), so it wasn't that much of a problem! My one high school B was in
Chemistry where I really was afraid of the labs and didn't understand
them very well, no communication problems there. I was in accelerated
math and science from 7th to 11th grade (none left to take as a senior),
so would have been one of the youngest in those classes, such as being a
sophomore in the junior class chemistry. Further reason to believe
success was related to maturity . Also a reason for not socializing
much, didn't know those older kids too well. With more boys than girls
in the math and science courses, it really brought out my hearing loss,
because at that time my loss was mainly in the lower ranges of
speech, where those boys and the male teachers spoke. Well, that's a LOT
more than you asked for, but the short of it is that I can recall how
hearing loss impacted me, but have never had reason to lay any blame on
it or anything else, since I couldn't have done much better under any
I am deaf in the sense that I don't understand voice unless I look; I am
hard of hearing in the sense that I live in both the deaf and hearing
Ask them to write down what they were saying.
Sometimes I pretended to understand. Sometimes I would ask them to
repeat what they had said.
I asked them to write it down or gesture it out.
Mostly guessed the 70% of the conversation.....sometimes ask them to
repeat but tried hard to not to. Just wasn't worth the time and efforts
only to find that it annoys the non-signers to repeat. Most people were
willing to be sure I understood when I informed them up front that I was
deaf and needed to lip-read.
I'd just ask that person to write down what he/she said.
Shave your mustache! Sometimes ask for repeat or writing. But some
situation(s) I totally misunderstood!
I would ask them to write it down...
Sometimes scream and yell at them.
For hearing, I would pause the communication and ask politely for written
Ask them to write, regardless!
I would try to find a different way trying to understand her or him by
Ask him/her to write
Bluffing is a common theme among the answers provided above. To me, this
is symptomatic of an oppressive societal attitude toward difficulty in
communication. Other answers in the above two questions support this
impression. Also, writing was a common solution to communication
The assumption that people would have different ways of communicating
with different people bears out with the data above. People were driven
to communicate on a situational basis with certain types of people,
especially neighbors. There did not appear to be any type of coaching on
what kind of approach to use with people that didn't understand, except
possibly for approaches taught incidentally as part of speech therapy.
As for approaches to understanding people, deaf people in general were
forced by societal expectations from childhood on to rely mostly on
lip-reading with hearing people.