The communication between a physician and a patient is very important. Especially when it comes to patients with a hearing loss. But most studies of communication between physicians and older adults do not mention that hearing loss may affect the communication between the physician and the patient. These are the findings in a review of medical literature on doctor-patient communication.
To investigate, a team reviewed the published medical literature on doctor-patient communication, selecting research studies that involved patients aged 60 years and older.
Of the 67 papers included in the review, only 16, less than one in four, included any mention of hearing loss. In four cases people with hearing loss were actually excluded from the study! Three of the studies reported on an association between hearing loss and quality of care.
One study examined hearing assistance
In only one of the studies reviewed did the researchers offer those under care some kind of hearing assistance to see whether it would improve communication. Not surprisingly, this study found that offering hearing assistance improved patients' understanding!
The review was led by Joshua Chodosh, MD, MSHS of New York University School of Medicine and Jan Blustein, MD, PhD of New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.
Patients struggle to hear
"Hearing loss has long been neglected in the medical community," said Dr. Joshua Chodosh. "As a geriatrician, I see many patients who struggle to hear what I'm saying to them. That makes me less certain that they are getting what they need."
The findings suggest that research on communication between healthcare professionals and older adults has largely overlooked a highly prevalent, important and remediable influence on the quality of communication.
An issue ripe for research
"Patients are often older people, for whom hearing loss is a daily issue. It's also an issue that's ripe for research: how can we attend to and improve hearing and understanding so that patients get the best quality care possible?" said Dr. Jan Blustein.
The review “Studies of Physician-Patient Communication with Older Patients: How Often is Hearing Loss Considered? A Systematic Literature Review” was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2017.