There are many causes of hearing loss. There is also a correlation between the age of a person and hearing loss. The older the person, the better chance they are hearing impaired.
Physical therapists are often called upon to work with the older patients whom are experiencing pain, weakness, trouble balancing, and more. Because of their age, many of these patients may also suffer from some degree of hearing loss, which is why an understanding of the condition can be valuable for those in the field.
PHYSICAL THERAPISTS NEED TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR PATIENTS
To expect a positive outcome or see progress, patients being treated by physical therapists need to be able to understand what is being asked of them. If a therapist is unaware of a patient’s hearing impairment, it is up to the patient to let them know. Once the physical therapist and patient are working together on the same page, there is a stronger chance of a successful outcome to their PT regiment.
FREQUENCY DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN THE NUMBER OF TIMES SOMETHING OCCURS.
No two hearing loss cases are exactly alike. Hearing loss can affect different people at different frequencies. Some people have difficulty hearing low frequencies such as a bass drum, thunder, or a deep voice, while others struggle to hear high frequency sounds like a shrill whistle, squeaking, or a child’s voice.
PARDON THEM FOR CONSTANTLY SAYING “PARDON ME”
If a physical therapist has a patient that continuously asks them to repeat what they just said, and the therapist speaks clearly and slowly, then it’s likely the patient has some degree of hearing loss. Even wearing hearing aids does not guarantee a person will suddenly hear every word in every frequency range.
So, what should a physical therapist do to ensure they’re heard by someone with hearing loss? They should be aware that the most common instances of hearing loss affect the higher frequencies. Since vowels are in the low frequency range, it is not simply a matter of speaking louder to make words better understood. Talking louder just makes the vowels louder. The real secret to communicating with someone with hearing loss is to put an emphasis on the consonants.
POINTERS FOR BETTER COMMUNICATION
Of course, there are alternatives for making your practice as comfortable as possible for patients with varying degrees of hearing loss. For starters, you can turn off any background noise, like music, television, a circulating fan, a copy machine, etc., when you have them in for an appointment. Staying within arm’s reach and facing your patients when speaking helps, too. This allows them to hear you more clearly and read your lips if needed.
Finally, if a physical therapist in private practice finds themselves working more and more with people suffering from hearing loss, they should consider having a hearing loop system installed in their treatment room. The loop, like those used in public venues such as theaters, concert halls, churches, and subway stations, connects directly to a patient’s hearing aids enabling them to hear everything more clearly. They are easy to have installed and are more affordable than ever.
Taking the time to utilize one or more of these suggestions will make it easier for physical therapists to deal with patients experiencing hearing loss and will allow those patients to get the treatment they need in a comfortable setting.