November 18, 2019. I’m very happy when readers reach out to share ideas, tips, react to previous postings. Not long ago, Dr. Jan Blustein of New York reacted to a previous posting about the pocket talker for law firms project that ran here several years ago. In this project, designed to better understand communication challenges that can occur between the legal community and people with hearing loss, law firms received tips on improving communications and had a pocket talker available for clients with hearing loss. It’s made a difference to the lives of many people with mild hearing loss, who were first introduced to a pocket talker, and helped bring awareness of hearing loss issues to the law community. (See ‘A Pocket Talker Changed My Life’, Pocket Talkers Available At ALL Stewart McKelvey Offices In Maritimes, and “The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”)
In an email with the subject heading ‘doctors with pocket talkers, lawyers with pocket talkers’, Dr Blustein wrote “I’m a physician and researcher at New York University, and along with some colleagues are doing a randomized controlled trial of pocket talkers in our local Veteran’s hospital — we’re looking to see if the Vets like them, and whether they help them to understand what’s going on. So far, they love them, the staff love them, but we haven’t looked at the outcomes.”
New York University is a research facility, and it was great to hear that medical researchers such as Dr Blustein are looking at hearing loss issues and how it can impact patient care. Per a brief bio from New York University, her research “focuses on hearing loss and its consequences for health and quality of life for older Americans. That work spans clinical, epidemiologic, and policy dimensions. She has reported on the influence of hearing loss on patient-physician communication, the association of hearing loss with patient activation, and the relationship between hearing loss and such standard measures of quality as 30-day hospital readmission.” (See https://wagner.nyu.edu/community/faculty/jan-blustein)
Dr Blustein sent an article written with two of her colleagues, Barbara E. Weinstein and Joshua Chodosh, plus an accompanying “link to this podcast from the British Medical Journal… it’s meant to increase awareness for MDs and nurses.” The article, ‘Tackling hearing loss to improve the care of older adults’ was straight to the point in discussing some of the many challenges faced by people with hearing loss in medical situations. (You can read the entire article here: Blustein Weinstein Chodosh BMJ) The article starts off explaining that “The World Health Organization estimates that disabling hearing loss affects nearly a third of people aged 65 and older around the world.” The authors point out that hearing loss in people is growing, and is “now the fourth leading cause of years lived with a disability globally.”
Then comes the important point….. “But the implications tend to be overlooked. Clinical care is often delivered in settings where people with hearing loss struggle to understand speech. Communication is key for healthcare quality and safety, so people with hearing loss are at risk of receiving poor care.” I can attest to that, after being a patient in a hospital for three miserable days and nights in June. (Once I am able to write about that experience without getting upset, I may do so.)
Dr Blustein and her colleagues note that “Many healthcare settings – especially acute care settings – are difficult listening situations. In wards and emergency departments, alarms are beeping, competing conversations are under way, and spaces often have poor sound insulation.” Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital can attest to that!
The authors explain that in interviews with older adults they have uncovered “many problems that lead to mishearing or misinterpretation in healthcare settings, including excessive noise, multiple concurrent speakers, failure to speak face to face, unfamiliar accents, and new terminology.”
Advice for communicating with patients with hearing loss is given in the article, and the suggestion is made for hearing assistive devices being provided. All good advice…. if it’s followed… In my situation in June, only the surgeon had the ongoing courtesy and empathy to make sure I could hear him. He made sure to face me, and spoke clearly.
Several years ago, pocket talkers were provided to hospitals here on Prince Edward Island. Instead of being placed on the wards, where nursing staff might be more inclined to use them as needed, and could become familiar with their use, the pocket talkers were locked up in the speech therapist’s office. That made them unavailable on evenings and weekends, and unlikely to be asked for by busy staff on the wards.
Thank you to Dr. Jan Blustein for sharing her research article and podcast, and current research trial at the Veterans hospital. Do you have an experience with pocket talkers that you would like to share? Let us know! As always, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
November meeting: Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.” This will be followed by the Annual General Meeting, and will be the last meeting until spring 2020.