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How do I explain that I can not understand her strong accent without coming across as rude?

10 replies

Grownyourownway · 05/07/2023 11:43

This may come across as a strange worry but it is really stressing me out.

So I have some health issues and last year was referred to a London based hospital. As I live 60 miles away, up until now, all the appointments have been via telephone.

I have appointments with 3 different health professionals but all under the same department.

Today, I have had a second appointment with one of these 3 healthcare workers. I believe she is Italian, she has a very strong accent and talks extremely quickly. Due to this and the fact I have tinnitus, I am finding myself struggling to understand much of what she is saying and having to ask her to repeat herself on several occasions. I felt today’s appointment was futile because I really could not grasp what she was saying and therefore could not get through to her how I am feeling or give her an up to date account of my current health struggles, it was rather frustrating. She is going to put it all in a letter for me to take a look at online (last time she got so much information wrong, including my name!). I feel very disappointed as I have to wait many months between appointments and am very much struggling right now - health wise. It felt like a waste of an important 15 mins (we’ll, important to me!).

Next week I have another appointment with one of the other healthcare professionals. He will want to discuss what was said today. I want to explain to him that I just can not fully understand what she is saying.

How can I do that without appearing rude?

OP posts:
Shopper727 · 05/07/2023 11:48

Just explain what you’ve said there, I struggle massively on the phone and much worse with strong accents or people who speak fast/have background noise so I would be the same.

be polite about it and explain you struggled with the appointment I manage much better face to face - I’m a nurse so also works the other way I don’t do telephone appointments thankfully.

But personally I know I struggle. It’s important for you so be honest explain to the person you speak to next and perhaps they can help. Do they do zoom type appointments as seeing her face/mouth might help and it’s easier to ask her to slow down she might see you’re not understanding whereas the cues are lost in a phone call. hope it goes well op

DewinDwl · 05/07/2023 11:53

Just say that you struggle to understand -you can use tinnitus as your excuse if you don't want to mention her accent or fast delivery.

You could also try to take more control of the conversation by asking "closed" questions that she would have to answer with yes or no or simple words / short sentences.

My sympathies, I have tinnitus and have had temporary partial hearing loss and it's frustrating and exhausting to keep up with conversations.

Blanketpolicy · 05/07/2023 12:01

Another tinnitus sufferer here and I also suffer with understanding some people. I've been for hearing tests, MRIs etc and have been told I am not deaf/hard of hearing it is my brain that is not recognising the words. It is so frustrating when there is nothing you can do.

This is a medical person so should easily understand why you have an issue and adjust her approach to support you. It is not rude to say - I have bad tinnitus and have trouble understanding people who talk fast, especially strong unfamiliar accents. I need you to speak slower and clearly for me.

Just be confident when you say it. Then just keep repeating and asking her to say it again and she will need to respond. Once you have said it to a few people you will find you become less embarrassed saying it.

As tempting as it is (I do it sometime in work!) don't sit and nod and pretend you know what is going on! This is your health it is too important for that.

Good luck.

LakeTiticaca · 05/07/2023 12:02

Just ask them to speak more slowly. I doubt you are the only person to find them difficult to understand. It's not about being rude. In a health care scenario you need things explained fully and concisely in a way you can understand

FictionalCharacter · 05/07/2023 12:15

I’m hearing impaired and have tinnitus. This is a very common scenario for me. It’s surprising how many HCPs communicate poorly and many of them have zero awareness of the needs of people who are hearing impaired, have tinnitus or are ND and just cannot follow the speech of someone who speaks fast, with an accent or doesn’t face you when they are speaking.
We shouldn’t have to feel rude - they are the problem not you.
You have to get quite assertive, repeat your request as many times as it takes, and not allow them to carry on speaking in the same way so that you leave the meeting with nothing.
“Please slow down, I can’t follow what you’re saying”.
She carries on the same…..
”Please slow down, I can’t follow what you’re saying”.
You might have to keep interrupting her - which feels rude, but it really isn’t. If she isn’t communicating with you she isn’t doing her job or, and that isn’t your fault.
If she just doesn’t get it, ask for a different person and tell the service why.

Grownyourownway · 05/07/2023 12:30

Thank you everyone. I really should let people know I struggle with my tinnitus before we start conversing, however this healthcare professional does also have a tendency to talk over me and I feel she is rushing through the appointment which I find so frustrating, on top of not being able to fully understand her - it’s a nightmare!

OP posts:
viques · 05/07/2023 12:34

I am increasingly deaf and find it hard to hear over the phone. I always tell people if I can’t hear them, or understand them. And will repeat this if need be. I find putting the phone on speaker helps a bit. I also find it hard to hear my dentist, who is both muffled by a mask and behind me!

Ifailed · 05/07/2023 12:37

I agree with PPs about pointing out your problem, but have you considered having someone you trust with you at the next call and have it on speaker phone?

ThreadExterminator · 05/07/2023 12:57

I have a similar issue with my London hospital as there is a terrible echo on the phoneline. I find my own voice echoing back at me extremely disconcerting and it impacts my train of thought during the phonecalls.

I've been thinking that I need to say something. The doctors want these phonecalls to be useful. By them slowing down 20% you might be able to understand your doctor.

Daisydu · 05/07/2023 13:20

I’d like to know the answer to this, as I have a professional im talking to on a regular basis and I can’t understand a bloody word he says. It’s driving me mad.

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