Doctors, clinics and waiting areas, etc.

Not all doctors, dentists, nurses and receptionists will have undergone deaf awareness training. 

5.a. The Receptionist/nurse (Doctor’s reception area)

This is a situation that many find difficult but there are some things people have found useful.

1. I always take my notepad and pen with me because the glass partition makes it difficult to hear anything and if I’m having difficulty I ask the receptionist to write down that I am deaf alongside my name.

2. I ask them to come and get me when it is my turn. I give them my photograph to clip onto the appointments book so that they know who I am. I collect it from the receptionist when I leave. I also like to have one clipped to my notes.

3. I exaggerate the problem and explain that I am extremely deaf.

4. If I’m struggling I use the speech-to-text app on my phone.

5. I ask the receptionist to write “deaf” on my notes.

6. I show my Communication Card and/or wear my deaf badge.

7. I give the receptionist my Communication Card with my name on it and ask them to come and fetch me as I will not hear them.

8. I give the receptionist my Communication Card attached to a piece of paper with “Please come and tell me it’s my turn as I will not hear you” written on it. I find it necessary to give them a piece of paper so they don’t forget.

9. Sit as near to the person who calls the names as possible. You may be able to hear or lipread your name.

10. I find it best not to read when it gets near my turn.

11. If possible watch the person before you and see when they go in – providing you’re certain they’re in the same queue as you!

12. Watch the person who comes after you. If they go in first it could be that you have missed your turn. Politely ask the receptionist if you have missed your turn.

13. At the doctors, because I can’t hear my name being called, I look round and see who’s there before me. Then I ask someone who comes in after me to tell me when my name’s called.  I’m very careful who I ask.

14. I watch as they call out the names and if nobody gets up it might be me, so I check with the person who’s calling.

15. It’s a good idea not to wait too long before checking if you have been missed. With a lot of appointments now the waiting time is supposed to be quite short.

16. I take someone with me and they tell me when my name’s being called.

17. I sit opposite the doctor’s room and watch.

18. I tell the receptionist each time I go that I am deaf and how she can help me.

19. As it is often a noisy crowded room you might like to read Chapter 4 “Crowded rooms” to see if there is anything relevant in that section, such as turning your aid down.


5.b. Avoiding having to lipread too many questions (Doctor’s reception area)

As soon as you arrive and after any “Good mornings” etc, state your name, your Doctor and the time of your appointment and any other relevant details.


5.c. Explanations about deafness (Doctor’s room)

Doctors have almost no training in deafness and may have no idea how to help you.

1. I explain that I am deaf and explain what I need the doctor to do, e.g. to look at me, to slow down, to speak up, not to write and speak at the same time, etc.

2. I ask the doctor to move so that s/he is not framed by light behind them.

3. I ask the doctor to move so that I have a better view of their face and can lipread better.

4. Rather than assume that the doctor is not interested in helping me I assume that s/he does not know how to help me and will help if I explain.

5. I tell the doctor to write down all important information for me such as exactly when to take the pills and what illness I have.

6. My doctor has a computer and I ask him to type what he’s telling me and at the end I ask for a printout to take away with me.

7. I usually ask to have my deafness highlighted on my notes.

8. Some people like to use a Language Service Professional.  Some hospitals and other medical centres may have them anyway, but if not, they should be able to arrange for one to be present if you need one.  You will need to make sure who is paying for the Language Service Professional. It should usually be the service provider that pays, but not always, so do check.


5.d. Going with a helper (doctor’s room)

1. I ask if I might take a relative or friend as a helper but I ask the doctor to talk to me and I explain that the helper is there to take notes and ensure that I do not misunderstand something.

2. Helpers can be very helpful or they can be a complete menace. A helper who does the talking for me or carries on a conversation with the doctor which I cannot follow is one that I never ask to help me in that situation again.

3. There are various ways a helper can help, for example:

  • Be there supporting your request to the doctor to speak directly to you using clear speech, etc. They might have to repeat the odd thing for you. They should make notes if possible and let you do all the talking.
  • Repeat everything for you and let you do all the talking.

4. If the doctor insists on speaking to them the helper should persuade them to speak to you and the helper can avoid eye contact with the doctor by taking notes to force them to talk to you.

5. I ask my helper to write everything verbatim. I find that the helper’s own interpretation is not helpful!

6. I insist that the doctor talks to me. It is only in the last resort that I let the doctor talk to my helper, and I insist that my helper repeats it/writes it all for me after each sentence. I do not let them have a private chat.

7. It is my body and I want to make sure I am in charge! It could be a matter of life or death!


5.e. General (Doctor’s room)

1. Think very hard about your symptoms beforehand and jot them down.

2. Think about any questions beforehand and jot them down.

3. Try and ask questions that will help you to anticipate answers. It helps you to control the situation.

4. If you are in doubt repeat back what they said.

5. Medical words can be difficult so I ask my doctor to repeat and/or write it down.

6. In a group practice find out who is the best communicator and request appointments with him or her in future.

7. I sit by the side of the Doctor’s desk so that I do not have to look at them with the window behind them.

8. I ask the doctor to draw the curtains so that I do not have to look at the doctor sitting in front of the window.

9. I either move my chair or ask the doctor to move theirs so that they will have a better light on their face.