OT talks with dispensing optician Maryna Hura about improving the practice experience for patients with hearing loss
06 October 2023
Healthcare appointments can be a daunting experience for patients with hearing loss.
In a busy practice environment, there can be barriers to effective communication – both with patients whose first language is British sign language (BSL) and for those who have lost hearing over time.
OT hears from dispensing optician Maryna Hura about how every member of the practice team can make the journey smoother for patients with hearing loss.
“Some deaf people can speak very well, some may be able to hear to a certain extent with the use of hearing aids, while others rely on BSL interpreters,” she said.
Hura shared that only 30–40% of what is said in English is lip-readable – while this form of communication also requires a lot of concentration and can be mentally taxing.
“Written communication using pen and paper may be appropriate in some situations,” she said.
Hura added that technology may also assist communication – such as speech to text applications.
Above all, be friendly and patient
Navigating healthcare, including eye care, can be challenging for people with hearing loss, Hura shared.
“There is a potential for miscommunication between the practitioner and the patient, which can lead to errors, missed information and misunderstood advice,” she said.
Hura highlighted visual aids and images can help a patient understand better what is happening during an eye examination and the outcomes of the consultation.
She added that practice staff should not assume that patients understand medical or optical terms.
It is important that practices offer alternatives to a phone call for getting in touch as this can be challenging for people with hearing loss.
Hura shared that these alternatives could include text messaging, text relay or online services.
To increase accessibility, practice staff should check how patients would like to receive and share information. These preferences can be annotated in the patient record.
Five communication tips
Maryna’s guidance on helping patients with hearing loss
- Allow extra time for the examination and give the patient your full attention
- Do not write or read while you are speaking and look directly at the patient
- Use plain English, do not exaggerate lip movements, speak clearly in full sentences, substitute long words for short words and do not shout
- Find a suitable place to talk with good lighting and minimal background noise
- Above all, be friendly and patient.
Hearing loss in the UK
One in five adults in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus.
More than 40% of over 50s have hearing loss, rising to 70% of over 70s.
1.2 million UK adults have hearing loss severe enough that they would not be able to hear most conversational speech.
Source: Royal National Institute for Deaf People