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17-01-2013 | Article

Some GPs failing hearing impaired


Action on Hearing Loss

A charity is calling for GPs to be better trained on the needs of patients with hearing loss, after finding around a quarter of patients with impaired hearing had felt unclear about a diagnosis or health advice they had been given after a GP consultation.

According to the survey, conducted by Action on Hearing Loss, the main reasons for this were simply that the GP did not face the patient, did not always speak clearly and did not check that the patient had understood what had been said.

The charity surveyed 607 people with varying degrees of hearing loss or tinnitus about their experiences in accessing healthcare. Other key problems highlighted were that the majority (72%) contact their GP by telephone when less than half (44%) actually prefer this method. Under one in 10 (9%) contact their surgery by email, yet three in 10 (31%) would like to.

Surprisingly, less than half (44%) of the respondents said their surgery has a visual display screen. One in seven (14%) had missed an appointment because they missed being called.

The report suggests that training and simple adjustments could easily address the problems identified, including keeping a record of how the patient prefers to make an appointment (email, textphone, SMS or telephone), ensuring staff are trained in basic deaf awareness and know to approach patients to let them know it is their turn to be seen, and installing a hearing loop in reception with staff trained to use it.

In addition, GPs should receive training in how to communicate with patients who lipread and consultation rooms should be well lit and have little background noise. A registered sign language interpreter should also be available.

Chief Executive at 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."

Medical News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter