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November 29, 2005

Interpreters for patients with hearing loss

Misunderstandings and problems hearing everything is familiar to most hearing impaired people at doctor's and hospital visits. But in Germany help is on the way.

German law makes it a right for all hearing impaired patients to receive assistance from a sign language interpreter when seeing their doctor or when in the hospital. Point 17, paragraph 2 of the Social Assistance Law states that health associations and insurance companies ”must cover expenses for signing and other communication aids.”

Patients with hearing loss often face communication problems during doctor’s visits. Misunderstandings are common, and perhaps the hearing impaired patient miss out on parts of the conversation or instructions. Studies have shown that hearing impaired patients may find it difficult or embarrassing to ask their doctor to repeat a diagnosis or instructions even when they missed important parts of what was said. This may have serious consequences. This problem may be alleviated with the use of a sign language interpreter.

The doctor-patient communication is important. If it is less than smooth and clear the hearing impaired patient should take advantage of his or her right to receive assistance from a translator.

According to the German law, the patient needs no documentation for the degree of hearing loss in order to request a translator.


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