Some physicians may be insufficiently prepared to work with the many patients who have hearing loss. People with hearing loss constitute approximately 9% of the U.S. population, and the prevalence is increasing. Patients with hearing loss and their physicians report communication difficulties; physicians also report feeling less comfortable with these patients. Although communication with patients plays a major role in determining diagnoses and management, little attention is given to teaching medical students and residents the skills necessary to facilitate communication when hearing loss is involved. The need for these skills will increase with the expected rise in the number of such patients. The author presents the rationale for including information about hearing loss in curricula on patient—doctor communication, and suggests curricular content, including background regarding hearing loss and techniques that can enhance the physician's ability to listen to (that is, “hear”) and learn about the stories of these patients.
Dr. Barnett is assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York.
Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Barnett, Family Medicine Center, 885 South Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620; e-mail: 〈Steven_Barnett@URMC.Rochester.edu〉.
The author thanks the members of the writing seminar at the University of Rochester Family Medicine Center for their encouragement and feedback on early versions of the manuscript.