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September 13, 1995

Communicating With Deaf Patients

Author Affiliations

Washington, DC

JAMA. 1995;274(10):794. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530100034016

To the Editor.  —Drs Ebert and Heckerling1 recommend that physicians treating deaf patients use more sign language. I have been the team physician for Gallaudet University for 10 years, and although I know some sign language, I find that the most useful means of communicating with deaf patients is a teletypewriter, commonly called a TTY machine. A TTY is a small, battery-operated keyboard with a display panel for the typed message; it can also be used to communicate with another TTY by telephone. I sit next to the patient and type my questions and comments on the TTY, and the patient types a response back to me. I find that while sign language is useful, it often is condensed and abbreviated in conveying important details. Since there are no sign language expressions in common use for much unfamiliar medical terminology, a physician or interpreter would have to spell out

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