Communicating with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can be challenging, especially when trying to provide healthcare. Many audiologists encounter these situations every day. Knowing how to effectively communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing is important to maintain a good provider-to-patient relationship. Communication happens every day with each person we encounter, which can lead to forgetting these techniques. See below for tips on successful communication:
1. Gain Attention
We all know that comprehension increases when you can see the individual’s face. Use the individual’s name or tap him or her gently on the arm before speaking. The individual will only be able to hear one source at a time. If the person hears better in one ear, you can try to speak on the better side. However, speaking directly in front of them is preferred.
2. Speak Naturally
When speaking, use pauses. This will give the individual time to process what he or she is actually hearing. Use a normal rate of speaking, not too slow and not too fast. Speak distinctly, but without exaggeration. There is no need to shout or slow your speech way down. Try to speak clearly without mumbling.
If the individual has a hard time understanding you, try rephrasing instead of repeating. This will help connect the pieces of context they are missing. Asking what they did not understand is also helpful to see where miscommunication took place.
4. Decrease Distractions
This can pertain to either how you are speaking or the environment. When speaking, keep your hands away from your face. Decrease distractions from your lips, such as chewing gum or food, as lipreading can be a helpful visual aid for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, do not exaggerate your lips while speaking. Distractions may also come from the environment. The noise levels of devices, such as a TV, dishwasher, or air conditioner, may be more bothersome to those with hearing loss. Turn the volume of these devices down or off when speaking to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
There are many more communication strategies that may be used. It is important we remain cognizant of how we are communicating with our patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. This will help provide efficient health care and lessen miscommunications along the way. We often teach our patients these communication strategies, but it is also important to utilize them as audiologists in order to provide the best hearing healthcare we can!
Dakotah Carda is a 3rd year doctoral student from the University of South Dakota. Next year she will be in Phoenix, Arizona at a primarily pediatric externship placement. She loves working with the SAA Student Ambassador Program to help hone her professional skills and make great networking connections!
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