If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, the best course of action is to have it treated! At Hearing Health, we understand that hearing loss can result of a cascade of issues including physical difficulties as well as emotional and cognitive difficulties. The best course of action to avoid issues caused by hearing loss is to be tested and treated. If you are a caregiver or the significant other of a someone with hearing loss who needs medical treatment, there are a number of things you can do to help that person out.
Assess environmental issues
Healthcare settings such as doctor’s offices or nursing homes are poor listening situations. There are beeping alarms, paging, conversations in the hall, perhaps conversations in a nearby cubicle and poor sound insulation. Since communication is key to good health care, and studies show people with hearing loss can be at risk for poor health care, keeping communication lines open is paramount. Clinicians need to understand that the issue is not necessarily hearing but understanding. Reducing outside and background noise when speaking to a patient goes a long way to helping understanding.
Small corrections are a big help
Even if you or a loved one are using a hearing aid, you need to make sure you are getting the most out of your appointments with health care providers. Speaking up and asking your caregivers to make a few changes on how they interact with you will help communications on all sides.
Ask nurses and doctors to face you when they are speaking. They should sit or stand directly in front of you – not face the wall where their desk in a treatment room may be, not look down at their notes when they are speaking. And, of course, if the treatment room is divided they shouldn’t try to speak to you from a different area!
It is best if they are at the same level as you – that would mean standing if you are on a treatment table and facing you. Standing above you or sitting while you are standing will not give you a clear look at their face. They need to be in the light so you can see their face as they speak.
Advice for caregivers and clinicians
Remember even if a hearing-impaired individual is using an assisted hearing device, there are things you can do to improve their patient experience and help communication. You don’t want to have to keep repeating yourself or run the risk of having important instructions or questions misinterpreted.
Say the patient’s name as you start speaking. This will focus their attention and they won’t miss the first couple of words.
Don’t talk too quickly or use long compound sentences. Pause between sentences and watch the patient’s face to make sure they don’t look puzzled and they are following along. Keep your hands away from your face so their view is not obstructed and remember chewing gum or drinking will cause.
If you have facial hair, a beard or mustache, that can interfere with lip reading and you may have to make sure you are speaking distinctly – not shouting and making distortion for a hearing aid wearer – but clearly.
If the hearing-impaired person hears better in one ear, make a point to remember to position yourself closer to that side.
Pay attention to the background noise
Hearing impaired individuals may be sensitive to loud noises. Avoid discussing complicated treatments or complicated instructions where there may be loud noises – even traffic noise through a window. Certain voice patterns and certain word combinations might be cause comprehension difficulties, you may have to explain something using different phrasing so they understand.
Don’t bounce back and forth between topics or change a topic without making sure they are following the conversation. Even people without hearing issues have difficulty concentrating or listening when they are tired or ill. Recognize the fact that these issues are compounded for the hearing impaired.
Write it down
If there are specific appointment times, medication instructions or certain phone numbers they may or will need to call, either have the patient repeat it back – or write it down. Legibly, of course!
Our Team at Haring Health Can Help!
Hearing Health offers hearing rehabilitation programs. You and a significant other can attend the programs together because we believe better communication helps everyone. Call Hearing Health today to ask about our programs and what we can do for you.