Delivery of audiological diagnoses for infants: a linguistic analysis of clinical communication

Rebecca Kim*, Catherine M. McMahon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe and analyse the linguistic structure of audiological diagnoses for infants, to determine ways to optimise the delivery of diagnostic information to parents during this typically emotive time. Design: This study analysed the linguistic structure of audio-recorded infant diagnostic appointments. Study sample: Nine appointments conducted by four experienced paediatric audiologists were analysed. Results: Diagnoses of normal hearing were delivered explicitly and in a straightforward manner. Positive aspects of this outcome were highlighted, and audiologists used the pronoun “we,” conveying a feeling of teamwork. In contrast, when a hearing loss was diagnosed, the diagnosis included disfluencies and the use of hedging, although positive aspects were also emphasised. In these cases, audiologists used the pronoun “I,” thereby taking ownership of the results. Differences in the topics raised by audiologists and parents highlighted a mis-match between the information provided and the information requested. Topics addressed by audiologists were primarily medical and procedural, whereas parents were concerned with causes, treatments and experiential information. Conclusions: The use of the above linguistic strategies may serve to minimise the significance and impact of the diagnosis. Whilst the data are unable to be generalised to other contexts, the study has generated in-depth and nuanced information about diagnosis delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-389
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • communication
  • diagnosis delivery
  • audiology
  • newborn hearing screening


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