How to Get a Deaf Person’s Attention

If you’ve ever wondered how to get a Deaf Person’s attention, you’re not alone. These are the widely accepted tactics which give visual or tactile signals as a way to say, “Hey look over here”.

Hearing people are sometimes at a loss for how to do this when they don’t have eye contact with the Deaf person.  Like… you don’t want to be rude.

I get it.

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.

Whether you have a new work or roommate situation, are a family welcoming a deaf child, or heck you’ve got a new date you want to impress, these are great for hearing people to become accustomed to because if both Deaf and hearing have access to the same cues, it helps level the playing field.  Harmonious household. Even, Steven.

Tap them on the shoulder

Gently please, but let them know you are there. 1, 2.

Tap, tap.
Tap, tap.

Flip the lights on and off

Not ALL the lights, just a main one you know they can see at least peripherally like a hall light or a table lamp.  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)


“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

“Bang” on the wall

This actually requires a little more force, since it generally needs to travel farther. But remember, it’s still in the respectful/polite zone than it is an actual bang. You don’t want to dent the drywall. Start lightly, then add more force if needed 1, 2, 3.  Careful of pictures hanging, too.


“Stomp” on the floor

Proximity and floor type may have a lot to do with this one.  Try it first 1, 2, . No dice, move onto the lights.


Flap your hand

Let distance between you and the urgency of the situation dictate the size and speed of the hand flap. Up and down, not side to side.   Here’s a demo:

Wave a flashlight

Best for communicating between floors or when trick or treating.  Phone flashlights apply!


Use an Intermediary

Can’t get the person’s attention at a distance?  See if you can catch the eye of the person sitting next to them.  When you do, make a “tap the shoulder” motion in the direction of the person you’d like the attention of.

Send a child on a mission

“Go tap Daddy” – Last resort of course but quite effective.



You can feel confident adding these to your communication toolbox.  But as common as these tactics are, if you’re in doubt, ask someone what they prefer!

Getting a Deaf person’s attention in a respectful way doesn’t have to be complicated.

The most important thing is that we’re communicating in a way that both parties are seen …and “heard”.




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

    1. Exactly. Like I said, be familiar with the person. Guess they’d learn quick not to try that one with you!

      1. Yeah, I had someone throw a rock at me in order to get my attention… after it hit them in the knee cap (on purpose) they learned not to do that again… very very quickly.

  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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