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6th May 2024 Deaf Awareness Week

Deaf Awareness Week

Deafness or hearing loss, happens when one or more parts of the ear aren’t working effectively. Very few deaf children have no useful hearing. Most deaf children can hear some sounds at certain frequencies and loudness, and with the use of hearing aids or implants they are often able to hear more sounds.

Deaf people communicate in lots of different ways. By being more aware of how deaf people communicate we can help make every day life more deaf - friendly for young people and children! Listed below are some of the common ways deaf people communicate. Some people will use a combination of these, and some people might use different approaches depending on where they are and who they’re with.

Listening and speaking

Many deaf children and young people communicate with others using spoken language. They may use hearing technology to help with this such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. Listening and speaking is sometimes called oralism.


Lip-reading is the ability to read lip patterns. Deaf children and young people naturally lip-read, but many speech sounds look the same, for example, ‘pat’ and ‘bat’, so it’s difficult to rely on lip-reading on its own. Lip-reading is usually used alongside other communication approaches.

Sign language

Sign languages are visual languages which use handshapes, facial expressions, gestures and body language. In the same way as different countries have different spoken languages, different countries around the world have different sign languages, too. The main sign language of the British Deaf community is British Sign Language (BSL).


The British fingerspelling alphabet is a way of spelling out words using your hands and fingers. Learning to fingerspell is a great first step towards learning BSL!

Sign systems

Sign systems such as Makaton or Sign- along are communication programmes, designed for people with speech and language difficulties, speech delays or learning disabilities. Sign systems don't have a grammatical structure and are designed to support speech, with signs and symbols signed or shown at the same time as the user is speaking.

Cued speech

Cued speech is a visual communication system which is designed to support lip-reading. Users of cued speech put their hands in different positions around the mouth while speaking, to help lip-readers distinguish between speech sounds which look similar. 

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Some deaf children with additional needs might use different ways of communicating as well as, or instead of, spoken, written or signed language. For example, eye gaze technology or alphabet boards can help people with additional needs to express themselves.


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