Communication barriers are the number one reason Deaf people have poorer health compared to hearing people. Imagine not being able to understand what a doctor is telling you, how your medicines work, or why exactly you are taking pills. For that reason, it’s vital that your surgery/hospital (not the patient) books an interpreter in advance of the patient’s appointment. This is a basic right for Deaf people and one that will ensure your patient has a clear understanding of their health and the information you are telling them.
- Book an interpreter. Do not expect your patient to bring a friend or family member to interpret for them. They will not know medical jargon or be trained to interpret health information, but most importantly, your patient will have no independence or privacy if a friend or family member accompanies them.
- If a patient brings a friend or family member into the appointment/doctor’s room with them out of choice, do not talk to the friend or family person. Talk directly to your patient.
- Make sure you have your patient’s full attention before talking.
- Maintain eye contact whilst communicating. Don’t talk to your patient whilst looking at your computer screen, filling out paperwork or turning around. Avoid covering your mouth with your hands or paper.
- Use normal lip movement, you don’t need to over exaggerate each word, and don’t mumble. This makes it hard to lip-read.
- Speak at a normal volume. Shouting can be uncomfortable for a patient wearing hearing aids.
- Make sure the room is well lit so that the patient can see your face clearly.
- Speak in plain English at a normal speed.
- If you are having difficulty explaining something, use written notes or diagrams to assist. Remember that all Deaf people have different communication needs, so writing information down won’t be helpful for everyone. If your patient doesn’t understand you, try and think of a different way to explain yourself rather than repeating the same words again.
- Use gestures and facial expressions to help explain yourself. Show with your face if something is painful, scary, or nothing to worry about.
- Point to parts of your body if necessary.
- Keep checking to make sure your patient understands you. If your patient doesn’t understand you, try and think of a different way to explain yourself.
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