Communication Strategies for Nurses Interacting With Patients Who Are Deaf

Christine Chong-hee Lieu, BA; Georgia Robins Sadler, PhD, MBA, BSN; Judith T. Fullerton, PhD, CNM, FACNM; Paulette Deyo Stohlmann, MSN, RN, OCN


Dermatology Nursing. 2007;19(6):541-544; 549-55. 

In This Article

Lip Reading

Health care providers may assume that lip reading is an effective form of communication. However, reliance on lip reading only should be considered an option when an ASL interpreter is not available and the deaf patient acknowledges that this is preferred to any other alternative (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003). Only about 30% to 45% of the English language is discernible through lip reading, while contextualization and guessing determine the remainder (Barnett, 1999, 2002a, 2002b; Ebert & Heckerling, 1995; Iezzoni et al., 2004; Margellos-Anast et al., 2005). Lip reading ability also varies and is influenced by such things as poor lighting, distance from the speaker, difficulty seeing the speaker's face, or limited familiarity with the speaker's speech patterns. People who have a long history of communicating with each other have learned how best to arrange the environment to maximize their communications (Trychin, 1997). The nurse should not assume automatically that lip reading is the most effective means of communication for a deaf patient (Bastable, 2002).

The nurse also must remember to speak normally and clearly, and to refrain from shouting and over-enunciating to the point of lip distortion because the deaf patient trying to read lips will more easily recognize regular lip movements. At the end of the conversation, the nurse should ensure that the patient understands the situation and, if necessary, arrange for a future meeting (Barnett, 2002a).


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