Communication difficulties experienced by deaf male patients during their in‐hospital stay: findings from a qualitative descriptive study

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The world of the hearing‐impaired is still today an unknown reality surrounded by many stereotypes and misconceptions. These disabilities are hidden, might be invisible at first glance and possess many issues in healthcare communication that still require investigation 1. The fragmented knowledge that the ‘hearing world’ has towards the ‘world of deafness’, often causes people to fall victim to false beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes 2. The ‘deaf’ concept is generic and does not allow differentiation between the many degrees of deafness, which may have both qualitative and existential importance 3. Understanding and perceiving properly the meaning of ‘being deaf’ can be difficult for hearing person, who are surrounded by sounds and noises throughout the day and, therefore, can barely imagine how living in a world of silence might be 4. For this reason, deaf people do not always receive all the attention and the sensitivity they require.
The huge and widespread lack of knowledge about deafness is documented in society as well as in the healthcare environment: healthcare professionals are not always capable of approaching deaf people carefully, thus threatening the health outcomes and the quality of the service provided 5. In the context of healthcare professions, and specifically within nursing, the lack of knowledge regarding deafness may also prevent the caring approach which is widely considered a core mission of nurses 6. Caring is based on interpersonal relationships; charity, compassion, confidence and communication play an important role in competent commitment of moral character 7. In addition, even though caring has universal meaning, its expression varies among cultures in general 8 and deaf cultures in particular 9. Human beings are unique and require a holistic approach 7 based on caring composed of instrumental and expressive traits 10. Technical, clinical procedures and nursing activities at the patient bedside are considered instrumental caring behaviour and require, among others, patient information, consent and participation. Expressive caring, instead, involves emotional elements such as practicing compassion, listening, showing commitment, being present and creating confidence/trust.
Communication is considered an essential component of caring 11. Effective communication is intended as reciprocal interaction, involving both speakers and a communication partner 12. When communication competences and skills are not effective, or when patients have complex needs such as those with impairment in speech due to mechanical ventilation, or deaf, complex communication issues may emerge 11.
However, despite the importance for healthcare outcomes, studies focused on healthcare communication with deaf patients 13 have mainly documented barriers and health accessibility and not the specific experience of deaf individuals during their in‐hospital stay. In addition, deaf people are often excluded from healthcare research and surveillance 20. Therefore, the general intent of this study was to explore the communication issues with health professionals affecting healthcare outcomes experienced by deaf people during their hospitalisation.
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