We are calling on GPs to substantially improve their communication with patients with hearing loss following research which found 28% of respondents had been unclear about a diagnosis during a GP appointment.
A new report entitled 'Access all areas?' found patients who felt unclear after a consultation attributed the misunderstandings to their GP not facing them (64%) and not always speaking clearly (57%). The findings suggest a severe lack of deaf awareness among GPs which could easily be resolved through training and making simple adjustments.
We are also urging GP surgeries to have clear procedures in place to record details of patients’ hearing loss and their individual communication needs after finding that only 39% of respondents have this vital information recorded.
Under the Equality Act 2010, GP surgeries must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be accessible to people with disabilities and ensure that the 10 million people in the UK who have hearing loss experience the same level of service as other patients.
Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, said: “It’s disappointing that many people with hearing loss have difficulty understanding vital health advice because GPs aren’t meeting individual communication needs. With deaf awareness training and simple changes, GPs can provide a much better service for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing and help avoid unnecessary follow-up appointments or the risk of exacerbated poor health.”
Action on Hearing Loss encourages GP surgeries to be more accessible by following the charity’s deaf awareness tips:
keep a note that the patient has a hearing loss on their record and check how they would prefer to make an appointment. The surgery should enable patients to contact them by email, textphone or SMS as well as by telephone.
ensure GPs and staff are trained in basic deaf awareness and realise that they may need to approach patients to let them know it’s time for the appointment.
make sure there is good lighting (so that you can be lipread) and little or no background noise in your consultation room.
make sure you have the patient’s attention before you speak and check whether they understand what you’re saying. If not, say it in a different way.
face the person so you can be lipread and speak clearly, using plain language, normal lip movements and facial expressions.
install a hearing loop in reception for hearing aid wearers, and regularly check that it’s working and staff are trained how to use it. Don’t raise your voice as it’s uncomfortable for hearing aid users.
provide a registered sign language interpreter for people who communicate by British Sign Language (BSL).
Find out more information on improving deaf awareness and access for people with hearing loss.
Download the Access all Areas?(external link, opens new window) report (PDF, 531kb).
Contact for general media enquiries:
Alan Dalziel, Senior PR Officer, telephone: 020 7296 8388 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors:
Action on Hearing Loss conducted a survey of the charity’s research panel members in April 2012 to explore the experiences of people with hearing loss when accessing healthcare. The research panel consists of 900 people and has representation from individuals with different levels of hearing loss and tinnitus, across a range of demographic characteristics. 607 panel members responded to the survey.
Action on Hearing Loss offers a charter mark, Louder than Words, which is awarded to organisations showing best practice for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The charity also offers Deaf Awareness Training for individuals and businesses. For more information, visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk or email: email@example.com
Action on Hearing Loss is the charity working for a world where hearing loss doesn't limit or label people, where tinnitus is silenced – and where people value and look after their hearing.
For further information about Action on Hearing Loss or to become a member, visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk, contact the Action on Hearing Loss Information Line on 0808 808 0123 (freephone) or 0808 808 9000 (textphone) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org