Deaf and hard of hearing individuals have historically been marginalized and discouraged from pursuing careers in health care. New technologies that emphasize visual access to information have been disrupting the communication norms of health care delivery to widespread benefit.

Microsoft HoloLens

An association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL) board member and M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rochester, Ian DeAndrea-Lazarus has developed a real-time captioning app for the HoloLens in collaboration with a team of developers at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The app captures audio, which is then translated to text that is projected in front of the wearer of the headset. This can lead to improved communication in challenging settings such as the operating room.

"Our ability to interact, understand, and communicate with others largely depends on visuals, not auditory channels."

The Communicator surgical mask

The FDA recently approved the world’s first and only transparent surgical mask, a tool designed to improve patient communication with medical providers and foster connection. While developed with the deaf population in mind, since many depend on access to facial expressions, The Communicator mask has seen unintended applications that transcend deaf patients.

Elderly physicians with various degrees of hearing loss have expressed benefits. Pediatric departments are using the mask, enabling pediatric patients to see the face of their parents and guardians and to find comfort in often-stressful medical environments. Surgeons who work in noisy operating rooms are also opting for The Communicator clear mask in an effort to reduce medical errors stemming from miscommunication.

As these examples show, technologies that facilitate visual modalities do not just benefit the deaf and hard of hearing community. These technologies can improve the lives of everyone, since more than 55 percent of communication is non-verbal or visual. Our ability to interact, understand, and communicate with others largely depends on visuals, not auditory channels.

The Deaf Health Initiative, a not-for-profit focused on improving the wellbeing of the global deaf population, as well as the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses, has been working to penetrate various markets with the aforementioned technologies, allowing an unprecedented growth of deaf and hard of hearing individuals pursuing a career in health care.