10 Ways to Get a Deaf Person’s Attention

Hearing people are sometimes at a loss at how to get a Deaf person’s attention when they don’t have eye contact.   Ideally, we would be facing the other person to fully digest every word or sign when conversing.  But like hearing people, this just isn’t always possible.  We too move about the rooms in our house, conduct our business facing many directions, cook, do laundry, wipe boogie noses.  Deaf people have lives too.

So we naturally use these tactics which give visual or tactile signals as a way to say, “Hey look over here” which are widely accepted among Deaf people.  For the linguists, these might be called non-verbal communication cues – common ways Deaf people get one another’s attention without signed or spoken words.

For deaf and hard of hearing with hearing people in the house stumped for a communication solution, you might look at these as tools to incorporate in your home.  Over time they become habit.  It’s nice because if everyone has access to the same cues, it helps level the playing field.  Harmonious household.  Even, Steven.

Not everyone uses all of these, but I believe there’s the garden variety something for everyone here:

10 Ways to Get a Deaf Person’s Attention

(Thanks to Hubs for playing Vanna White)

  1. Tap them on the shoulder Gently please, but let them know you are there. 1, 2.

    Tap, tap.

    Tap, tap.

  2. Flip the lights on and off Not ALL the lights, just one you know they can see at least peripherally.  1, 2, 1, 2. Pause.  No response, repeat.  This works well for us when we have one kid in the bath.  I’ve run out of shampoo or need a towel but of course don’t want to leave the bathroom, so I flip the lights in the hall.  My husband then comes running (when he’s good and ready)



  3. Rap on the table Seen at dining tables a lot.  When someone looks down, you can rap on the table 1, 2, 3. Flat hand down or side of fist.  You could also make a knock. Rap, not bang. It’s a dining experience.  Works best on wood.photo image
  4. Bang on the wall This is actually a bang, since it generally needs to travel farther. 1, 2, 3.  Careful of pictures hanging.photo
  5. Stomp on the floor Proximity may have a lot to do with this one.  Try it first 1, 2, 3. No dice, move onto the lights.photo
  6. Flap your hand Let distance between you and the urgency of the situation dictate the size and speed of the hand flap.  Here’s a demo: 
  7. Wave a flashlight Best for communicating between floors.  Often seen in stairwells, on banisters and on the first step where it has eventually landed.photo
  8. Yelling Now this is no ordinary yell, it should be trademarked.  Cup your hands around your mouth, drop voice into low register and let it rip, “HOOOOOOOOAHHH!!!!!!!!!!” This is particularly effective in a long hallway or courtyard.  Again the distance between you and the size of the area in which noise is made should determine the length of the call itself.  You may wonder how a deaf person can hear this.  Like a 6th sense, it seems it can be universally felt.  And if you can hear a bit more like me, your eyebrows might stick to your hairline for a week the first time you experience it.  Another demo for the hearing folks wondering what this could possibly sound like.  For hearing people who wish to try this on for size, I would recommend carefully observing for at least a year before attempting.  It has a time and a place for sure (and it’s probably not at church or fancy restaurants.)
  9. Chuck an empty water bottle or something else lightweight like a crumpled paper ball or even a flip flop.  Toss up and over, no whaling it.  Only attempt with those you are quite familiar with as it’s not the most refined method.

    Lightweight possibilities. Use with care.

    Lightweight possibilities. Use with care.

  10. Send a child on a mission “Go tap Daddy” – Last resort of course but quite effective.IMG_3995

So for those wondering, hope this lets you feel more P.C. the next time you encounter a deaf person.  But as common as these tactics are, if you’re in doubt, ask someone what they prefer!  Cheers.

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5 thoughts on “10 Ways to Get a Deaf Person’s Attention

  1. FaceTime or text… That’s a new trend today!!

    My wife is watching TV on first floor while I am watching TV in man cave basement… She FaceTimes me to let me know that she needs my attention :) Vice Versa.


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