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September 13, 1995

Communicating With Deaf Patients

Author Affiliations

Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee

JAMA. 1995;274(10):795. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530100034019

To the Editor.  —We read with interest the study by Drs Ebert and Heckerling,1 especially the findings that written English was reported by physicians to be the most common communication method used with deaf patients and that lipreading was used by a substantial minority of physicians. We have surveyed deaf persons in a community setting and also found written English to be the usual method used for physician communication, despite the fact that less than 20% of the deaf persons rated themselves as fluent with written English.2 It is worth reinforcing that English (whether written or spoken) is essentially a foreign language to many prelingually deaf patients and neither written English nor lipreading is a substitute for American Sign Language (ASL).Another question raised by the study by Ebert and Heckerling is to what extent outcomes would be improved if ASL interpreters were consistently available. Our study of

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