People with hearing impairment often struggle to receive the medical care they need because of difficulties communicating with health care providers. Since they cannot book appointments or receive medical information over the phone, deaf patients require alternative modes of communication. These methods might include texting, email, or online systems.
In this article, we offer tips and information about how to communicate with hearing-impaired patients so that you can provide adequate care to everyone, including deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
What Is the Most Effective Way To Communicate With Deaf Patients?
The best way to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing patients is in person, with all your attention on them. Deaf individuals need to see your face clearly to understand you when lip reading, so you need to talk directly to them rather than a computer screen or clipboard.
However, it’s not always convenient or possible for the patient to talk face-to-face, so it’s crucial to know how to overcome communication barriers with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person on the phone. Whether in person or over the phone, you can make the conversation go more smoothly by following the communication tips in this section.
How To Communicate With a Deaf Person Over the Phone
People with hearing loss can communicate over the phone using a live-transcribe device called a teletypewriter (TTY), which allows one person to type messages for another to read on a display screen.¹ Tips for using a TTY effectively include:
- Use abbreviations, such as “GA” for “go ahead” when it’s their turn to talk or “HLD” for “hold.”
- Identify yourself at the beginning of the conversation since they can’t hear your voice.
- Be concise with your messages and use simple words if possible.
Some patients with hearing loss can use the phone but struggle to hear clearly. Others use interpreters for their phone conversations. If you want to communicate effectively with them, try the following:
- Before starting the conversation, ask if you are calling at a good time
- Call from a quiet area to eliminate background noise
- Speak normally: not too fast, too slow, or too loud
- Articulate and enunciate each word clearly
- Talk directly into the phone’s mouthpiece, but make sure your mouth is not too close
- Use pauses to give them time to understand
If you want to make it easier for deaf or otherwise hard-of-hearing patients to schedule appointments or give and receive medical information, it’s best to use text communication software. For example, Weave allows healthcare providers and patients with hearing loss to text about scheduling, reminders, questions, etc., on the same platform that handles your office’s appointments, payments, and other systems.
How To Communicate With a Deaf Person Face-to-Face
Several tips for effectively communicating face-to-face with someone who has hearing loss include:
- Schedule a qualified interpreter to be present at the appointment rather than relying on the deaf person’s friend or family member.
- Ensure that the room’s lighting is bright enough for them to see you.
- Get the person’s attention before speaking (wave, tap their shoulder, etc.)
- Talk to the patient, not the interpreter.
- Maintain eye contact while speaking with the patient.
- Speak at a normal speed and volume, using clear speech.
- If the patient doesn’t understand something, rephrase your words instead of repeating them.
- Use gestures and body language to express your words, but don’t cover your face or mouth.
- Check in with them to see if they are understanding you.
You should talk to the patient directly if you are communicating through a sign language interpreter. The interpreter should also stand near you so the patient can simultaneously see the sign language and your facial expression for visual clues.
Writing things down or offering a visual cue can be very helpful when communicating with deaf patients. Sometimes, typing back and forth on a computer or text might be easier for effective communication. Everyone is unique and will have different preferences for communicating.
Using organizational tools like Weave, you can record these preferences and have them show up when the patient calls.
A Flexible & Modern System Makes a Difference
" I couldn't have been as effective nor efficient without Weave these past two weeks. We, like a lot of offices, had to close down (rather quickly) and thanks to Weave I could text everyone, send out email blasts, work from home, answer patients questions and concerns quickly. Although as an OM this has been the most stressful 2 weeks of my career, Weave has made it more manageable. "- Office Manager.Schedule Demo
How to Communicate With Hearing-Impaired Patients Who Are Elderly
Even with the help of a hearing aid or assistive listening device, patients with age-related or untreated hearing loss will benefit from thoughtful communication strategies. It’s best to speak to people with hearing loss face-to-face just as you would a hard of hearing or deaf patient, beginning the conversation by politely getting their attention.
Make sure the person with hearing loss can see you well enough to read your lips, then speak clearly and slowly—but not so slowly that your speech doesn’t sound natural. Take your time while talking, pausing between sentences to allow them to process what they’ve just heard.
The patient’s hearing device might distort your speech, and background noise combined with hearing loss can make it harder for them to hear you. You might need to repeat your words several times before they understand. If repeating yourself doesn’t help the patient with hearing loss to comprehend, try rephrasing the sentence.
Nursing Interventions for Hearing-Impaired Patients
Nurses can help facilitate conversations with deaf or hard-of-hearing patients using certain assessments or communication strategies.²
When working with a deaf patient, the nurse should establish their preferred communication methods, such as American Sign Language, British Sign Language, or spoken language. Nurses can also assess the area for anything that might hinder communication, like noise levels and other distractions.
Nursing interventions for impaired verbal communication include the following:
Provide alternative methods of communication access for when there’s no interpreter, such as visual cues or messaging devices
Show the patient that you understand what they are communicating
Minimize distractions in the environment
What’s the nurse’s role when communicating with hearing-impaired and mute patients?
Nurses can improve communication when caring for deaf or hard-of-hearing patients by carrying out certain tasks, such as:
- Creating a quiet, distraction-free environment when talking
- Keeping hearing aids clean and within the patient’s reach
- Adjusting the hearing aid volume appropriately
- Communicating with lip reading and body language
- Performing a hearing test if necessary
Nurses should identify what strategies help the patient best during their care. Like any other patients, not all deaf or hard-of-hearing people benefit from the same techniques. Something that works for one patient might not work for another, and nurses can help the patient by finding their preferences.
Knowing how to communicate with a hearing-impaired person is vital for healthcare providers to ensure that everyone receives the same level of care.
Weave is an easy-to-use, comprehensive communication tool for medical, dental, veterinary, and optometry offices. Our all-in-one software makes it simple for patients to schedule appointments, ask questions, or get reminders.
To discover the benefits of using Weave, get your demo today.