Going to the doctor can be stressful under any circumstances, but add a hearing loss to the mix, and it can be downright scary. Doctors are notorious for their poor handwriting, but their oral communication skills can sometimes leave something to be desired as well. This may not be entirely fair, as doctors face increasing pressure to see more patients and perform more procedures each day simply to make ends meet.
Whatever the reason, many do not take the time needed to speak clearly and face the patient when providing important medical information or treatment instructions. Given these challenges, people with hearing loss must actively self-advocate in all health care situations.
I recently attended an informative session at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) 2017 Convention that discussed this very topic. Led by Toni Iacolucci (a hearing loss advocate and HLAA board member) and Jody Prysock (a certified sign language interpreter and patient advocate), the session provided useful tips for creating safer and more effective interactions with your doctors, in a variety of medical settings.
Sometimes making the doctor appointment itself is half the battle. Fast talking receptionists who answer the phone at doctor’s offices are often difficult to understand. Be sure to ask whoever answers to speak slowly and clearly if you have trouble hearing on the phone. Repeat all important information to make sure you got it right. If possible, ask for an email confirmation of your appointment time and what you need to bring with you.
Once you arrive, it is important to make the appointment as productive as possible. Toni and Jody suggested using a Communication Action Plan or CAP.
A CAP contains important information for your doctors and their staff telling them how to best communicate with you. It details the types of devices you use to hear and what services you need from them for better communication. It describes how you would like to be called in a waiting room (we all know how easy it is to miss your name being called) and how to best schedule appointments (call/email/etc).
One item I would like to see added to it is instructions to speak clearly and always face the patient when talking to him or her. Perhaps that could be added in the notes area.
Once completed, the CAP should be kept in your medical record so it is easily accessible before and at each appointment. But how do we get the doctors and staff to use it? Self advocacy, of course. We need to bring our CAP to our next appointment with our doctor, discuss it with him or her, and if it is not used in subsequent sessions, remind and remind. You can print your own copy here.
For additional information see Guide For Effective Communication in Healthcare, a detailed manual that includes instructions for using the CAP. It also includes tips for better communication in a variety of medical settings for both patients and providers.
Thank you to Toni Iacolucci, Jody Prysock and (HLAA) for compiling this terrific guide for people with hearing loss.
Readers, how do you self-advocate in a medical setting?