Guidelines for hearing impaired patients

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), providers are required to engage in "effective communication" with their hearing impaired patients. The type of accommodation for "effective communication" varies based on several factors. These include the nature of the patient’s impairment, patient’s ability to communicate as well as the complexity of the medical matter. 

The ADA requires healthcare providers to furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services for person with hearing impairments. Appropriate auxiliary aids and services includes: "qualified interpreters, note takers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials, telephone headset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telephones compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, telecommunications devises for deaf persons, videotext displays, or other effective methods of making aurally delivered material available to individuals with hearing  impairments." 28 CFR 36.303(b)(1).

If "effective communication" can be achieved by means other than an interpreter, then an interpreter is not necessary. If an interpreter is required, the interpreter must be qualified meaning they are able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. It is important to note that an individual does not necessarily need to be certified in order to be a qualified interpreter. Typically the provider is responsible for the cost associated with providing "effective communication" unless the cost imposes an undue burden on the provider.

Communicating with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings - U.S. Department of Justice guidance


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