Working with the hearing impaired can be challenging and frustrating for the CNA even on a good day. Communicating with people on a daily basis can be challenges, making one, clear to a person with a hearing impairment can be even more so. It can be frustrating for both the aide and the resident and family members. It is vital to understand and make yourself be understood by your resident:
A) Approach your resident from the front or the side, so that they can see you and gently touch them on the arm or the shoulder, try not to startle them, if they can see you coming from the front or the side, they are more comfortable and at ease.
B) Background noise: Nothing is more frustrating than trying to sort out different sounds and conversations, especially if there is a lot of back ground noise going on. Turn the volume on televisions and radios down, close doors to block out noises from hallways and loud speakers. The less background noise the better able the resident will be able to understand you. If the resident is in a noisy dining area, either move them to a quieter location to speak with them or get down in front of them so they can see your face and your mouth. Avoid talking with your resident while your back is turned to them or from another room. Always look your resident in the face and let them see you, talk clearly and loud enough for them to hear you.
C) Hearing aids: Often times a resident will have hearing aids. Keep them clean and within reach of your resident. Help them adjust the volume level on the devices. If the volume is up to high the resident will be assaulted by loud pitch whistles, causing them discomfort.
D) Sign Language: Sign language, facial expression and lip reading help the resident understand. If you know sign language and your resident does to, use it. Note pad and pencil or pen, is another form of communication that works well with the hearing impaired. Use a black sharpie and make your words and letters clear, bold, and large, so that the resident can read it. The darker the better.
E) Speaking: When speaking to the resident with hearing loss, face them; keep your words short, simple and clear. “Mr. Todd, I am going to make your bed now.” speak slow and clear. Do NOT speak to them as if they were children and do not scream at them, look them in the face and talk to them. You may have to repeat yourself many times, but a good aide will look for ways to make communication much easier. Hand gestures, lips reading, notes, hearing aids, and pictures are all good communication aides.
F) Speak clearly and slowly: Lower you voice from its normal pitch and speak clearly and loudly, do not scream or yell that gives the resident the wrong impression and cause him/her to think you are angry. Some people can hear things in different pitches; work with your resident to see which technique works for both you and them. Pronounce numbers singly. For instance, 67 can be said as “Six Seven” otherwise it might sound like, “Stick a pin in your oven.” Alternatively, something like that. If you are helping a resident with letters and spelling, say it like this “B=boy, r=?…” p and b and d can often get confusing so pronounce your letters clearly.
G) No Hearing Aide? Try using your stethoscope. Put the earpieces in the resident’s ear and speak into the bell at the bottom. If you can hear a heartbeat, they may be able to hear you. Use tools that maybe out of the normal toolbox. Scrabble pieces can be used in place of writing, flash cards, note books, whatever it takes use it.
H) Change up the vocabulary: If a resident is having a hard time, understanding a word or a phrase, change the word or the phrase make it simple. “I’m going to give you an emesis basin” can be rephrased to, “Here is something to spit in.”
I) Single topic conversations: Keep to the conversation at hand. Jumping from one subject to another can get confusing and frustrating for the resident. Keep your conversation brief and to the point and stay on point.
J) Understanding your Resident: if you resident are trying to communicate with you and you cannot understand them, slow them down and have them repeat themselves slowly. Always repeat back to them what they have said to you. Repeating can help clear up confusion. If the resident is using an interpreter, speak directly to your resident. You are communicating with the resident not their interpreter.
K) Finishing up: Let your resident know when you are done with your work in their room and that you are leaving. Make sure they are situated so they are safe and make sure they have their call button within easy reach. Place remote controls, call buttons, water and other needed items, within easy reach of your resident.