Nov 032011


Speak Up, Doc, I’m Hard of Hearing


By Gael Hannan, Hearing Health Matters 11/1/11


Ok, people with hearing loss, think quickly now. What’s the most challenging aspect of going to the hospital, doctor, or dentist?


The eye exam where you can’t see the technician’s lips, let alone him?


The dentist who wears a mask, but you can’t say ‘pardon’ with a mouth propped open by metal bars?


The doctor in a rush who doesn’t make eye contact? (Lesser mortals such as medical students are usually sleep-deprived, struggling to keep their own eyes open, let alone focus on yours.)


These situations are the tip of the ‘healthcare communication barriers’ iceberg. You’d think that doctors and other health professionals would know, instinctively, how to communicate with us. The truth is, they are just as likely to break our rules of engagement as any random, untrained person. What’s more, the average healthcare environment is usually not an accommodating one.


But we should never, ever, have our health compromised because of something we may have misheard! While many health issues are beyond our control, we do have a say, and a responsibility, in creating effective communication. We can take the lead by identifying the problem (This examining area is too noisy for me to hear you well) and some solutions (Speak up, doc, and then write it down!).


But as for the question about the most challenging medical situation – my vote goes to the nightmare of “Waiting for Your Name to be Called.”


Like most people, I have spent many life-hours waiting to see the doctor or dentist, at the ER for a child’s broken collarbone, or for medical procedures like x-rays and MRIs. It’s not the mind-numbing wait time that stresses me, but the sheer difficulties of hearing someone call my name. I live in fear of missing my turn, and finding myself the last person in the waiting room, just before they turn out the lights.


I always let the receptionist know about my hearing loss, but I still worry. Clinics and emergency rooms are chaotic, and listening for my name is an aerobic workout.


Please, Ms. Hannan, have a seat. We’ll call you when we’re ready.


Thank you, but I have hearing loss and I might not hear my name called. Could I sit here, beside you? Help with the filing, maybe?


No. Please join the others in the waiting room; we’ll find you.


Well, could you do a little wave, so that I know it’s me you’re calling? I’ve been missed before.


Sure, yes, we’ll try, whatever, siddown!


I shuffle away, hoping to find a seat close to the doorway where the nurse will appear, so I can read my name on her lips. The crowded waiting room has rows of seats; some face the important doorway, but others face the back of the room.


For the rest of the story:

– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax