Pharmacies and other health care service providers are in the business of communicating with their clients. Patients who have hearing loss may misunderstand or otherwise misinterpret instructions; this miscommunication can result in delayed or inappropriate treatment as well as costly errors in prescription dosages. In fact, in the worst case scenario, miscommunication can worsen an illness and create major problems for all parties. For these reasons, more health care professionals are working on ways to better communicate with patients who are hard of hearing.

Some health care institutions now work from a script with visual prompts to help communicate with patients. The idea is to keep the message simple. First, get a patient’s attention, next make eye contact, and then speak slowly. Accurate communication is the goal.

Some environments are not suitable for such communication. Think of the pharmacy counter at a busy drugstore or supermarket. The lighting and noise levels can lead to poor communication. For these reasons, private booths and rooms are making an increased appearance. Getting a patient with hearing loss into a calm, quiet environment allows both parties to focus more readily on the issues at hand. Distractions are eliminated and the focus remains on communicating and sharing information between the patient and health care provider.

Professionals using these approaches report that patients are more attentive and even ask more questions. The patients have the space and confidence to communicate more easily. This improves their own health care and gives them a better sense of control. In fact, many pharmacies who have adopted such an approach are using these improved techniques for communication for all patients, not just those with hearing loss. If the techniques work for hearing impaired, then they should also work on other patients. In the end, the benefits of improved communication translate to a happier and healthier group of customers.

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