One in five adults in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing. This means that in an average day (8 am to 6pm) you could see 10 patients in your surgery who have difficulty in hearing what you are saying.
As the majority of GPs and surgery staff have not been trained to communicate effectively with deaf or hard of hearing patients it is not surprising that many patients with hearing loss either leave the surgery feeling confused about the advice they have been given or avoid seeing their GP altogether.
Fortunately learning how to communicate more effectively with deaf and hard of hearing people is simple and can be very rewarding to the Receptionist.
The following tips will help you feel more confident about being understood and hopefully give your patients a better service.
- Remember to face patients when speaking to them and check that they have understood you.
- Try to reduce background noise, especially for hearing aid users.
- Avoid having bright lights positioned behind your or equipment blocking out the patients view as these can make lip-reading difficult.
- Try to remember to check that the patient you are about to converse with is looking at you before you begin to speak.
- Remember confidentiality. Try not to shout, as this will only distort your voice and lip patterns. Speak clearly, with a normal rhythm of speech. Shouting will only result in embarrassing the patients.
- Try to remember sentences and phrases are easier to lip-read than single words.
- Try to allow time for the patient you are talking with to absorb what you have said – and please do not rush them. Give them time to ask questions if they are unsure.
- Try to keep your hands and anything you may be holding away from your face and do not eat while you are talking.
- Try to avoid exaggerated or misleading facial expressions.
- Try to use some gestures during conversations as this may help.
- Speak in a moderate rhythm, try not to change the subject suddenly and re-phrase if your patient has not understood.
- Keep a pen and paper handy in case you need to write anything down.
- As patients how they prefer to communicate and mark their notes accordingly. This can be done as an alert message on the computer screen. This will alert other healthcare professionals and receptionists when booking them in.
- Think about how patients in the waiting room know when it is their turn – either by a receptionist alerting them personally or the doctor or nurse alerting them. They might always be able to hear the tannoy.
- Make sure that all staff, Doctors and attached staff are aware if you have a portable hearing loop in your surgery. Ensure that you are aware of how it operates – and ensure that it is checked on a regular basis.
- Always talk to the patient and do not talk past them or to the person they might be with
Remember: They are only hard of hearing – not stupid!