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Plan for Effective Communication in Health Care Settings

Prysock, Jody; Iacolucci, Toni

doi: 10.1097/
Patient Handout

Ms. Prysock, left, is a certified sign language interpreter, a consultant, and an advocate for all hard of hearing, deaf/Deaf, and DeafBlind people. Ms. Iacolucci is a hearing health advocate and a member of the NYC Board of Directors of the Hearing Loss Association of America. They are the authors of the Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care.

For people with hearing loss, communicating clearly with doctors and medical staff is important for safety and well-being. Consider these tips:

  • Tell staff you are hard of hearing or deaf.
  • Fill out a Communication Access Plan (CAP), and ask that it be added to your Electronic Medical Record (
  • Ask questions, and make sure they are all answered.
  • Repeat information to make sure you understand.
  • Find out which staff member is responsible for the aids and services you need.

Your needs may depend on the type of visit, so note these reminders:

Visiting the Emergency Department

  • Remind the staff you will not hear your name being called.
  • Ask for a copy of registration questions.
  • Ask that a sticker with a symbol showing that you are hard of hearing or deaf be placed on your wristband.
  • Ask to have a sign posted with your hearing status.
  • If you cannot wear hearing aid(s) or cochlear implant(s), ask that they be put in a labeled container or given to a family member or friend.
  • Be sure to get all instructions in writing.

Inpatient Visits


  • Contact a patient representative or advocate to ask who is responsible for arranging the services you need.
  • Follow up before your appointment to ask about aids and services they have for you and what you need to bring.


  • Bring your paperwork and your CAP.
  • Bring hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices (ALDs), batteries, and a container with your name on it.
  • Bring a pen and paper or a tablet.

During Your Stay

  • Inform the staff that you expect to be included in all discussions and decisions.
  • Tell the staff that you won't be able to hear the intercom.
  • Make sure to have a sign of your hearing status over your bed, a wristband with a universal hearing loss sticker, visual alerts, captioned phone, and instructions to set up TV captions.
  • Discuss with the staff how they will get your attention, e.g., turning lights on and off, tapping you on the shoulder.
  • Make sure hearing aids, cochlear implants, ALDs, etc., are kept safe.
  • If you are unable to get the help you need, ask to speak with a Patient Advocate.


  • Request to have all discharge instructions in writing.

Outpatient Visits

Scheduling Appointments

  • Use an online patient portal or email scheduling.
  • Discuss what aids and services are available.
  • If using a phone for scheduling, repeat the date, time, and address of your appointment to confirm.

When You Arrive

  • Remind the staff you are hard of hearing or deaf.
  • Give them your CAP.
  • Ask the staff how they will let you know when you will be seen.

Your Visit

  • Review your CAP, and discuss your hearing status and your needed aids/services.
  • When prescribed a new medication, ask if it may affect your hearing, balance, or tinnitus.
  • Request to have all information about your treatment plan and medications in writing.
  • Ask for the name, phone or text number, or email address of someone to contact if you have questions.


  • Remind staff that you are hard of hearing or deaf.
  • Give staff a copy of your CAP.
  • Ask to wear your hearing device(s) until tests or procedures begin. If this is not possible, ask staff to put the device(s) in a container with your name on it.
  • Ask for a written explanation of what will be done.
  • Make sure all your questions are answered before staff put on surgical masks.
  • If you have a cochlear implant(s), ask your doctor if you can have an MRI.
  • Ask for earplugs/a headset before getting an MRI.
  • If anesthesia is involved, ask your doctor if this will affect your hearing, balance, or tinnitus.
  • Ask your doctor if someone will be in the room to give instructions and how he or she will communicate with you.
  • Ask the staff how and when you will get the results.

For more, see the Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care.

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