When communicating with patients both in and outside of the dental surgery, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People have recommended the following:
Adjustments all dental care professionals can make are:
1. Reducing background and other noises in the dental surgery eg. turning the radio off, avoiding opening equipment packets, cupboard doors etc when trying to speak to the patient.
2. Also consider the noises created from dental drills, ultrasonics and suctioning. Patients who have hearing aids may prefer to switch them off during treatment as high-pitch noises can cause interferences
3. Use communication methods mentioned above or consider writing things down or using devices/apps such as the Google transcribe app or Interpreter Now, which allows access to the British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter on video call. Should your patients use BSL, access to interpreters is advised, which might be more readily accessible for Community Dental Services
4. Make sure you record how the patient would prefer their communication from you and the dental practice. Since 2016, all NHS services should record this according to Accessible Information Standards. For example, patients might prefer text message or email reminders rather than telephone calls. Or require information in leaflets rather than verbal instructions
Adapt and apply:
COVID-19, as aforementioned, has made communication much more challenging. But we can also make adjustments to attempt to communicate as much as possible before the appointment. For example virtual or video consultations and using more non-verbal communication.
There are even clear face masks available (which are usually only for use for consultations rather than treatment) for people who rely on lip reading.
Dental professionals must adapt their communication methods for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. For people who use BSL, anyone can learn the basics of using this language by undertaking courses, and many of these are now done online such as British Sign.