Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice What Your Patient is Thinking

“How can I help you hear?” The transforming power of six little words

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 18 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h184
  1. Sarah Chapman

I’m waiting to be called for a smear and I have a couple of concerns to discuss. I’m on high alert. Not for me a browse of last year’s magazines; I need to be sure that I know when I’m called, and that means keeping my eyes peeled for the nurse. Having made it to the consulting room, the next obstacle is the “confidential tone”—the enemy of every patient with hearing loss. We stumble our way through a series of questions, half heard, on intimate matters (plenty of scope here for misunderstanding and embarrassment), and I ready myself for the next bit of the ordeal.

Now an internal examination is not likely to gladden the heart, but because I rely on seeing lip movements to aid my hearing, being flat on my back threatens more than just my dignity. I’m grateful that the nurse offers me privacy to get undressed but miss what she’s saying from the other side of the curtain. I’m prepared for the business of trying to keep my head raised off the trolley, to increase my chances of keeping my eyes on her face, but of course I can’t sustain it and sometimes she talks with her back turned, her head down, or from behind the curtain. Worse is to come. I’m still on …

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