Dialogue Volume 12 Issue 2 2016 - Page 31

practice partner Are You Being Heard? For patients with hearing loss, doctors foster care with clear communications DOC TALK By Stuart Foxman Illustration: sandy nichols I n his family practice in Toronto, Dr. Salvatore Scala can converse with patients in English or Italian. For one long time patient who lost his hearing, he relies on a third language: American Sign Language (ASL). Dr. Scala learned it when he served as Medical Director at the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf. He understands that few doctors in Ontario know ASL. (Ten list it on CPSO’s public register, or just two more than speak Zulu.) But all doctors can look for ways to better communicate with patients who have some sort of hearing impairment. The need is widespread. Statistics Canada reports, based on the Canadian Health Measures Survey, that 20% of adults have at least mild hearing loss. That prevalence rises with age. While 7% of those 19-39 have hearing loss, the number jumps to 16% for people aged 40-59 and 47% for the 60-79 age group. For children and youth aged 6-18, an estimated 5% have hearing loss that was considered mild or worse. As the Canadian Hearing Society (chs.ca) notes, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults. Now consider that in 20 years, almost one-quarter of Ontario’s population will be 65-plus. Next year already, for the first time, seniors will comprise a larger share of the population than children aged 0-14. “If there’s any place a patient with hearing loss needs clear communication, it’s with their doctor,” says Gael Hannan, Vice President, Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA). Issue 2, 2016 Dialogue Issue2_16.indd 31 31 2016-06-16 12:27 PM