How to communicate with patients who have hearing loss

The number of people living with hearing loss is expected to increase by 40% in the next 15 years

Andrew Bridges

The importance of hearing during an eye examination was explored by the Hearing Care Partnership’s director of professional services, Andrew Bridges, at 100% Optical (12–14 January, ExCeL London).

During his presentation, Making an optical practice hearing friendly, Mr Bridges highlighted that the patient journey can be challenging for those living with hearing loss.

“We might deprive them of their senses by taking away their glasses – how does that impact on their thought process?” he asked. 

Mr Bridges shared that one in six people within the population have hearing loss, a number that is expected to increase by 40% in the next 15 years. 

“That means at least two patients in every optical clinic, based on a half-hour schedule, have a hearing difficulty,” he added. 

Mr Bridges explained that an increase in hearing loss is age-related, but it is also associated with exposure to noise over time.

“A key topic for optometrists at the moment is myopia management. Therefore, we should also be thinking about teenagers who use headphones at a loud volume to help protect their hearing in the future,” he said. 

The impact of hearing loss on a patient’s lifestyle is also an important area for optometrists to consider. Mr Bridges highlighted that those living with hearing loss tend to avoid social situations, which can lead to social isolation, and so optometrists need to understand how they can best support their patients in this area.

Mr Bridges’s top tips for communicating with patients who have a hearing difficulty

  • Gain the person’s attention before you start speaking
  • Ensure the person can see your face and lips clearly
  • Don’t shout. Speak clearly and don’t over-exaggerate your lip movements
  • Use neutral facial expressions and gestures
  • Use plain language that is easy to follow.