Good dialogue is vital
Good patient-doctor communication is extremely important for the detection and treatment of hearing loss. Several recent studies indicated that only a fraction of elderly people have hearing tests and that consequently, most cases of hearing loss go untreated. General screening programmes alone are not enough.
Hard-of-hearing patients frequently report communication difficulties with their doctors. A clear dialogue is essential. This may be challenging for the doctor as well as the patient.
The awareness of and knowledge about hearing loss is lacking in many patients and in some doctors. This complicates the process of determining the nature of the patient's problems. At the same time, hearing loss may be hard to recognize. The patient may be hiding his hearing loss from those around him, making the task even harder for the family doctor. This requires a strong dialogue.
Difficulty communicating is without a doubt among the most important consequences of hearing loss. Many hearing impaired people have had bad experiences, making it extremely important that doctors and patients are frank about the communication problems.
On the following pages you will find guidelines to help improve communication between you and your patient, as well as advice on counselling patients who are hard of hearing.
In addition, you can read why you as a family doctor should make no adjustments or changes to your patient's hearing aids.
Sources: American Family Physician 1997; 56: 1953-4 & 2057-2064: "Understanding Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Patients" & " Issues to Consider in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Patients" and Orthopaedic Nursing, 2002; 21: 64-68: "When hearing becomes part of healing"