The College of Optometrists

Examining patients who have hearing loss

A96
When you examine a patient who has hearing loss you should ask them how they would prefer you to communicate with them.
A97
You should allow an appropriate amount of extra time for the consultation.
A98
To help with communication, you should (refer to COVID-19 guidance):
  • face the patient and maintain eye contact to enable the patient to lip read
  • keep your hands away from your face when talking. Be aware that beards and moustaches can also make it more difficult for people to lip read
  • speak slowly, clearly and distinctly, but do not exaggerate mouth movements. Use short sentences where possible, and pause between sentences
  • not shout
  • minimise background noise if possible
  • watch for the  facial expressions that may indicate that the patient has  not understood you, and rephrase what you have said rather than repeating it
  • only turn the consulting room lights off when needed, and tell the patient before turning the lights off. Do not put the refractor head in front of the patient’s face until necessary. Where possible, move the refractor head away from the patient when speaking to them
  • be patient, and repeat what you have said where necessary
  • provide clear and accessible written advice if you are not confident that the patient has understood your verbal advice. Also see paragraphs A136, A149 and A163.
A99
If the patient has age-related hearing loss, they may find it more difficult to hear higher pitched voices, such as women’s and children’s voices. You can help these patients to hear you by lowering your voice.
A100
You should explain what you are going to do before you do it, for example before asking the patient to put their head on the slit lamp, or bringing the refractor head in front of their face. 
A101
If the patient prefers to communicate using an interpreter,31 you should use a relevant accredited interpreter to protect both you and the patient. If the patient is an NHS patient you may contact your local NHS organisation to see what arrangements they have for providing this service. You may choose to use a video-interpreting service, using a video phone or other device.32 You should talk directly to the patient rather than the interpreter. 
A102
If you use pen and paper to help communicate, remember that patients who use British Sign Language (BSL) do not have English as their first language. You should therefore use shorter, simpler words and sentences where possible.
A103
The BSL fingerspelling alphabet is useful to help communicate with deaf patients.

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