Happy National Deaf History Month! If you haven’t heard of this season, it runs from March 13 to April 15. Nearly 15% of adult Americans report trouble hearing, so your clients may have employees with hearing issues and aren’t even aware of it! Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals face some unique challenges when it comes to getting dental care. Even making an appointment can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions available to ensure that no problem is insurmountable. Here are some of the common issues that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can encounter and what Delta Dental does to help solve them.

Challenges and considerations

When it comes to getting quality dental care, challenges can start before people who are deaf and hard of hearing ever set foot in the office.

  • The deaf and hard-of-hearing can have difficulty just making appointments. Not every office will have someone fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) on staff, but if an office isn’t set up to schedule appointments by text or email, it can be impossible for deaf patients to even step foot inside.
  • Dentists that don’t speak clearly, slowly and while looking at members make it hard to read lips. The deaf and hard of hearing may rely more on lip-reading than others. Seeing a dentist who is in a hurry or who talks while moving all about the practice can make it more difficult for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow what’s being said. To make things even harder, the fact that everyone is wearing masks because of COVID-19 only compounds this issue.
  • People may not even realize that they’re hard-of-hearing. Because most everyone loses some of their hearing as they get older, the change can happen so gradually that some people aren’t even aware of it. Attentive dentists can notice when their patients seem to have difficulty with hearing them or following a conversation and adjust accordingly.

Solutions and resources

Whether a person has recently become hard of hearing or has been deaf since birth, there are two major tools available to help them.

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that Delta Dental members can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person translator when given 72 hours’ notice. Most importantly for deaf patients, this means that they can have an interpreter fluent in ASL accompany them to their dental visits!
  • The Find a Dentist search tool. The Find a Dentist search tool is perfect for members looking to find an in-network dentist that fits their specific needs. Members can search by distance and specialty, but they can also search for dentists by the languages their offices support and available accessibility features, including dentist offices where the staff is fluent in ASL!

More than 35 million people in the United States report having trouble hearing, whether they suffer from mild hearing loss or are completely deaf, so it’s essential for your clients that their dental coverage take this into consideration. Fortunately, valuable services like the Language Assistance Program and thoughtful features like the Find a Dentist search tool make it easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing members to get their dental needs taken care of.