By Kathryn Wyeth
This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) Annual Virtual Convention. HLAA’s mission is to “open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.”
While all the sessions were very interesting, I thought the sessions on access to health care to be of particular importance. Currently, burden of achieving communication access in medical encounters largely lies with the individual or their caregiver. The HLAA Communication Access in Health Care program is working toward the goal of achieving preemptive, systemic solutions that ensure effective accommodations in all medical encounters for people with hearing loss.
Patient-provider communication is a cornerstone of patient-centered care that is respectful of an individual’s values, expectations and needs. Research suggests that people with hearing loss incur higher health care costs, experience higher rates of health care utilization and are less satisfied with care than their peers without hearing loss. Untreated or undertreated/accommodated hearing loss can lead to or exacerbate dementia, falls, and certainly isolation.
What Can People with Hearing Loss Do?
The health care settings need to know they currently serve people who have hearing loss and that this is a real and increasing need. When you go to the doctor, hospital or other health care setting – let them know you have hearing loss. Ask them to look at you when they are speaking. Ask them to speak slower (Not louder!) Let them know what you need!
Participate in Surveys and Research
If you or someone you love has hearing loss, consider joining HLAA! MATP had a long-standing project in collaboration with the Michigan State Chapter of HLAA. We worked with the Hearing Loss Technology Resource Specialists to reach people who have hearing loss with some of MATP’s services, such as training and device demonstrations. While this collaboration ended a few years ago, MATP continues to value the work of the Michigan Chapter. The peer support given through the local chapters, along with the opportunities to learn more are definitely worth the cost of membership!
HLAA’s quarterly newsletter “Hearing Life Magazine” will be having a series of articles on access to health care. You can access this magazine if you are member of HLAA.
You can learn more about devices that can help with hearing loss through MATP’s Device Demonstration and Short-Term Loan Program!