Speaking to patients in a language they understand

How to Talk to Your Patients in a Language They Understand

Why are you an audiologist? Part of your answer probably has something to do with a personal interest in the audiology field. And that’s great! We would be worried if you were not interested in and passionate about your field. Often, the best professionals are those who truly care about their field of work and study.
However, because of your interest and experience in audiology, you may sometimes forget that not everyone shares your passion and knowledge. In fact, many of your patients probably have a very minimal understanding of the field of audiology, how their hearing works, what causes hearing loss, and how a hearing aid can help them. When this information is given too quickly and without sufficient explanation, it can be frustrating, discouraging, and confusing to a patient.
Even when you make an effort to explain a patient’s diagnosis and treatment in detail, do you focus on using terminology the patient will understand? The truth is that much of the technical terminology that has become familiar to you can go over a patient’s head. This is especially true with older patients.
Think about it: If you went to the mechanic and he or she only used technical terminology with you, would you understand everything being said? Probably not – because that is not your field of specialty. In the same way, your patients do not specialize in audiology, and much of the terminology is foreign to them.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure you are speaking in a language that your patients will understand:

  • Take an inventory of how often you use technical terminology. The first step to fixing this issue may be acknowledging that it is an issue. For one week, take note of how often you use technical terminology when speaking with your patients. You may find it helpful to write down which terms you notice yourself using so you can find suitable, simple ways to explain them to your patients or replace these terms with ones that are less technical.
  • Improve communication with your patients by removing technical jargon. Once you have determined which terms you use that may confuse patients, replace them with words and phrases they will understand. Strive to use everyday words that people of a wide variety of backgrounds will easily comprehend. If you need to, practice with a friend who works in a different field to gauge whether you are using easily understood terminology.
  • Check with your patients for understanding. After explaining a diagnosis, a test, a treatment, or a device to your patient, make sure they understand what you have said. Ask simple questions to make sure they have comprehended their situation, what you recommend, and any instruction and guidance you have provided. If it seems that the patient is confused or has misunderstood anything, use simple, everyday language to explain it again.

Over time, it will become second nature for you to use easy-to-understand language when speaking with your patients – and they will appreciate it. To learn more about how you can better communicate with your patients, we welcome you to contact us at AudiologyPlus today.

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