Skip to Content

9 Best Practices for Working With Patients Who Are Hard of Hearing 

As a medical professional, you’ll encounter patients with various communication needs, which will require you to adapt the way you speak and listen. But sometimes, you’ll also work with patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Whether it’s due to aging, injury, or a congenital condition, hearing loss can make it difficult for patients to receive important health information and participate fully in their care. As such, providing effective healthcare for these patients requires specific communication and technical skills. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore some best practices for working with patients who are hard of hearing so that you can deliver the best possible care.

Start By Learning More About Hearing Loss

If you want to provide better care for patients who are hard of hearing, it’s important to start by educating yourself about hearing loss. Hearing loss is a complex condition with different causes and degrees, which can make it challenging for patients and professionals alike. To learn more about hearing loss, you can explore reliable sources of information such as, consult a local audiologist, or partner with a specialist within your own hospital or clinic. 

For carers looking after older parents who are hard of hearing, there are online resources that make available to the public up-to-date research and practical advice on hearing loss diagnosis, treatment, and management. 

close-up elegant stylish elderly woman formal suit having hearing problems holding hand her ear

Image: Freepik

Make Sure The Patient is Wearing Hearing Aids and Glasses

If your patient is hard of hearing, make sure that they are wearing their hearing aids while you are speaking with them. If the patient is not wearing them, ask them to put them on before you continue the conversation. Besides hearing aids, it’s also important to ensure that the patient is wearing their glasses if they have vision issues, as this can affect their ability to lip-read or see facial expressions.

Wearing these devices can greatly improve communication and help the patient understand what you are saying more effectively. This strategy is just as important if you are looking to communicate with an older parent when caring for them

Use Body Language and Maintain Eye Contact

When communicating with patients who are hard of hearing, it is essential to use body language effectively. Your posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures can convey nuances that may not come across through speech alone.

Some best practices include:

  • Don’t speak while moving 
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Choose calming hand gestures
  • Remain responsive in the conversation
  • Make sure your lips are always visible. If wearing a mask, use a clear, see-through visor instead
  • Agree by nodding instead of using vocal cues (i.e., saying “hmmm”)

According to studies (NCBI), using body language can help you establish relationships with your parents, clarify their needs, and plan their care, regardless of their communication needs. 

Use Short Sentences and Speak Clearly 

To communicate effectively with patients who are hard of hearing, it’s important to use short sentences, enunciate each word correctly, and take pauses between sentences to improve comprehension. This allows them to understand better what you are saying without getting lost in a longer phrase or idea. 

Additionally, it’s important to speak clearly, enunciating each word so that they can hear and differentiate between sounds. This clarity helps ensure that your message is received accurately, ultimately leading to improved patient care. 

Make Sure Your Patient Understands You By Asking Questions

When communicating with hard-of-hearing patients, it is crucial to ensure that they understand what you are saying. After all, it is each patient’s right to understand everything their doctor says. 

One way to do this is by asking them questions throughout the conversation. This not only verifies their comprehension but also encourages engagement and participation in their care.

Some strategies to ensure comprehension include: 

  • Ask your patient if they understand how to take medications and what side effects they may cause
  • Use clear and concise questions
  • Avoid medical jargon and complex words
  • Discuss lifestyle changes and ways to implement them 
  • Give your patients the option to repeat each sentence you say to confirm they heard it correctly
  • Write down words that they don’t know, use more common synonyms, and provide explanations
  • Rephrase sentences differently and simplify your language 
  • Explain complex concepts using drawings or models 

Last but not least, understand the fact that your patient may not be asking questions in fear of being bothersome. Make sure to encourage as many questions as possible, repeat and write down key concepts, and spend time ensuring that your patient is satisfied. 

Avoid Shouting Or Making Excessive Lip Movements

When working with patients who are hard of hearing, it’s important to remember that shouting or speaking loudly will not necessarily help them hear you better. In fact, it may be uncomfortable for them and can even distort your words. 

Similarly, making exaggerated lip movements can be distracting and may make it harder for the patient to understand what you’re saying. Instead, enunciate each word clearly and take breaks when necessary, but maintain a normal volume. 

Find a Comfortable, Quiet Room

When working with patients who are hard of hearing, it’s important to find a comfortable, quiet room in which to conduct your conversation. Look for a space that is well-lit and spacious enough, is free of distracting background noise, and is made comfortable by chairs and desks. 

Take into account any potential noise sources, like nearby traffic or loud ventilation systems, which you may not notice at first, but can make your patient’s experience far more challenging. Don’t forget to complete any conversation you may need to have in preparation for a procedure before entering the operation room. 

Take Advantage of Assistive Devices

When working with patients who are hard of hearing, it’s important to take advantage of assistive devices that can help improve communication. For example, using a hearing aid or cochlear implant can greatly enhance their ability to hear and understand what is being said. 

Other assistive devices, such as communication cards or speech-to-text apps on smartphones can also facilitate better communication in healthcare settings.

Ask Your Patient What You Can Do To Improve Their Experience

To improve your patient’s experience, always remember to ask what they need from you. 

Ask them if they would benefit from a sign language interpreter or written instructions. On the other hand, many patients find it helpful when doctors and nurses speak clearly and face them while conversing to facilitate lip reading.

A specialized audiologist and reliable online resources can help you collect all the information you need to enhance the quality of care you are able to provide to patients with hearing loss. 

error: Content is protected !!