Impact of hearing loss on communication during remote health care encounters.

Gabrielle H. Saunders, Francesca Oliver

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Introduction. Satisfaction with telemedicine is generally high, however it can lead to communication problems for people with hearing loss (HL), especially when encounters are conducted by telephone, because of the inability to see the face and lips on which many people with HL rely. Despite acknowledgement that HL might affect telemedicine outcomes, no studies have directly examined this. The primary aims of this study were to determine whether and how HL impacts patient satisfaction and willingness to use telemedicine.
Methods. Opinions about telemedicine were assessed in a survey of 383 members of the general public. Data regarding reported hearing ability, use of hearing assistive technology, and preferred form of communication (oral/aural versus sign language) were also collected and people with HL were intentionally oversampled. Survey items included closed set and open ended responses.
Results. People with HL declined the offer of telemedicine appointments, rated telemedicine outcomes significantly less positively, and had stronger preferences for in person care than did people without HL. The explanation for this were directly associated with hearing-related difficulties or the indirect consequences of those difficulties. HL resulted in concerns about communication during the appointment, a lack of privacy when an intermediary helped with communication during the appointment, worries that critical information has been misheard/missed, and anxiety/stress.
Conclusions. The needs of people with HL during telemedicine encounters must be addressed to ensure equitable access. Healthcare providers should take responsibility to communicate clearly with people with HL and individuals with HL should be willing to advocate for their needs and use special access tools during telemedicine appointments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTelemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association
Early online date11 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2022


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