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What's on my tray: Inclusivity for hard-of-hearing dental patients and providers

Sept. 9, 2022
As someone born profoundly deaf, Amanda Zubricki, RDH, strives to help deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) patients feel more comfortable at the dentist, and to make her DHH peers' jobs easier.
As health-care providers, we’re constantly learning to be more inclusive of our patients. Amanda Zubricki, BS, RDH, is the founder of That Deaf RDH nonprofit and an advocate for the deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) community. As a practicing dental hygienist and someone who was born profoundly deaf, Amanda has the unique experience of knowing the struggles of both deaf and hard-of-hearing patients and providers.

The struggles faced by DHH people became even more profound when the pandemic hit, and those who depend on lip reading could no longer read lips due to masks over the mouth. Before the pandemic, DHH people may have faced struggles in clinical settings when providers wore a mask, but suddenly they were facing issues everywhere.

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Unable to communicate, the DHH called for compromises, understanding, and that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) be followed. The ADA requires that accommodations be provided to allow for effective communication. Amanda shares her top three products—ClearMask, Philips DiamondClean, and CloSYS oral rinse—to help us be more inclusive of DHH patients. 

Read my lips

When working with a DHH patient, Amanda recommends the transparent surgical mask by ClearMask. One of the reviews on the ClearMask website states, "ClearMask is an amazing product. I'm so grateful they can help my patients who are deaf and hard of hearing communicate better with me."

ClearMask offers the first fully transparent, FDA-cleared, and CE-marked mask. ClearMask is cleared for medical use in environments such as an operating room. They are anti-fog and meet the fluid resistance standards for level 3 ASTM surgical masks. These transparent masks also have EZ-adjuster straps that go over the head and can be easily adjusted for a personalized fit, avoiding discomfort on the ears. Amanda likes these masks because they allow for better visual communication and put DHH patients at ease because it facilitates lip-reading.

Shine bright like a diamond

Another product Amanda recommends is the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean. It’s powerful, and it vibrates instead of beeps to let the clinician know it’s time to move on to the next quad. Phillips also prides itself in their sensor-guided brushing. The position sensors guide you to brush in areas you've missed to get 100% coverage. The Philips DiamondClean has other unique features, including seven premium brush heads and a tongue brush and a glass cup charger. 

Swish and spit 

This final product recommendation is not just for DHH patients. Amanda recommends CloSYS oral rinse to all her patients. "I love CloSYS!” she says. “I especially recommend CloSYS to patients who struggle with periodontal disease and mouth sores." 

CloSYS Ultra-Sensitive is an alcohol-free, dye-free, triclosan-free, sulfate-free, gluten-free oral rinse. CloSYS combats bad breath and biofilm while soothing sensitive mouths. The chlorine dioxide formula helps neutralize the pH in the mouth without killing the good bacteria that patients need for digestion and healthy mouths. CloSYS claims that it is gentle like water, and the only mouthwash to come unflavored, with optional flavoring. Patients can control the taste of the oral rinse or keep it unflavored. The product is a staple in Amanda’s home.

For more tips on caring for DHH patients, follow Amanda Zubricki on Instagram @that.deaf.rdh and @thatdeafrdh.nonprofit.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of RDH magazine. Dental hygienists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

About the Author

Amber Lovatos, BSDH, RDH

Amber Lovatos, BSDH, RDH, “The Latina RDH,'' is the founder of Latin RDH and the host of Un Cuento de Dos Higienistas podcast. She has been compassionately blazing trails personally and professionally for more than 10 years. As a clinician, educator, author, and champion for public health issues, she inspires industry colleagues with unique stories that include triumph over abuse and being first-generation college graduate. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram @thelatinardh and @dentalhygienespark.