The Medical Profession in Regards to Hearing Loss

August 28th, I went down into the basement to get my squirt bottle in preparation for cutting a friends hair. Barefoot, I carried the vacuum cleaner extension piece with me and when I was about two steps from the bottom I gently tossed it into its approximate corner. I managed to miss the last step in the process, landing on the outside edge of my right foot and felt a snap. I sat down on the floor like a sack of potatoes cradling that foot, grinding my teeth while repeating “ow-ow-ow” in my head.

After giving myself a minute of pity, I got up and hobbled into the room where my squirt bottle was. I couldn’t walk on my foot at all so I hobbled around on my heel, got my squirt bottle and went back up the stairs. I parked my butt on a stool in the kitchen, took 4 advils and watched my haircut walk up the driveway. Yes, I cut his hair. I’ve cut hair while in labor and I’ve cut hair with a dislocated shoulder so I can cut hair with a hurt foot.

When he left, I laid down on the couch with an ice pack and texted Ken who showed up at home shortly after. He asked if I heard a snap and I can’t say I did but I sure felt it. We went to an after hours medical care place near the house. After hobbling in, I informed the desk person I was half deaf and needed to see her to hear her. She faced me when talking with her soft voice and I understood her but she didn’t say a lot either.

After I filled out the paperwork, a nurse came to get us and of course as she leads us to the examining room she talks at the same time. She stops and motions me onto the scale and before getting on, I give her my spill about being half deaf and needing to see her. She nods okay. She’s quiet as we go into the room but after we sit down, she starts talking from behind a folder, reading a list off to me. I stop her. “One more time, I need to see you in order to hear you. I’m half deaf.” She gets a really annoyed look but lowers the folder and starts again. It’s a list of ailments I say yay or nay to. As soon as she’s done, she vacates the room and I don’t see her again. I turned to my boyfriend and asked, “Was I rude?”

“Maybe,” he says, “It was a little direct.”

I get so tired of repeating myself which is ironic since I’m hard of hearing and need others to repeat for me. I guess I need to have patience too. (Have patience patient.) I make a mental note to be nicer to the next person.

Next comes the x-ray technician. Even though my foot is throbbing, I put a smile on face and tell her what I need for communication. She totally gets it and does a wonderful job facing me while talking and miming/motioning too. I hobble after her to get my foot x-rayed and she continues to do a wonderful job in communication. After she views the x-ray, she looks through her little window and nods with a thumbs up. I yell over, “Does that mean it’s broke?” She comes around the corner and says, “Oh yeah. Good job.”

the x-ray

All this time I’ve been hobbling or hopping after people and now they insist I don’t walk on it putting me in a wheel chair. They wheel me into my room and Ken sits beside me, thank goodness. The doctor comes in next and I tell him nicely what I need to communicate too. He looked at me while talking but his lips hardly moved at all and he had no facial expressions. Talk about a void. Ken wound up translating most of the conversation for me. I did pretty good up to that point. He recommended seeing a orthopedist the following day.

the splint

I go home with a cheap, wet (for molding) splint and a few wraps. Still no crutches so hopping around now that I’ve been warned to stay off that foot. It’s too late to go looking for crutches or wheelchairs. It’s a long night of being careful with my foot and worrying. I go to sleep late and sleep until Ken comes in the next morning to tell me he got an appointment. I had an hour to get ready. I’m not good at waking up fast, I get kind of grouchy, and my foot slows me down. We barely make it on time.

Round two.

Ken drops me off at the front of the building that houses the doctor’s office which is on the second floor. I hop to the elevator. I’m exhausted and getting more cranky. So much for putting on a nice face. I hop off the elevator and thankfully, the office is twenty or so feet away but it’s a lot of hopping. Since I’m grouchy and maybe even a bit petulant, Ken does all the talking for me and hands me paperwork to fill out. I hop to a chair with the staff and waiting patients watching me. A man who is near the desk offers his seat to me but I need another seat for Ken since I may not hear my name called. About 20 minutes later, they call my name from across the room (and I didn’t hear it) so Ken nudges me and helps me up. I hop all the way across the waiting room into another examining room. I try my happy face after sitting down again and tell the nurse what I need and she does well. Next the doctor comes in and I repeat it all over again knowing full well the nurse probably hasn’t told him. The doctor is the first one to ask me, “Do I need to talk louder?” No, you just need to face me, I use a little lip reading. He complies but I’m irritated so I don’t pay as much attention as I should. I’m not liking what he’s telling me so I sort of tune out and let Ken take care of it again.

In the end it’s decided, because I have no insurance, to let my foot go for three weeks to see if it heals on its own. If I had insurance, they would pin it but since I don’t, let’s try this way first. That’s when I tuned out and I must have had a look on my face because he added, “I’m not treating you any different but…” Pah! He gave me a shoe and told me to stay off my foot and come back for an x-ray. If it didn’t heal right by then, he will do surgery and pin it. He also said he would try to knock costs down for us too.

bruising

I’m not looking forward to going in again because I’m not sure I like the guy and I know I will deal with the staff more because I have borrowed crutches from one friend and another friend found me a boot to stabilize my foot more. I will have the energy to deal with them this time and they will have to deal with me.

the boot

The whole episode got me thinking about how little the medical profession knows about hearing loss. I wasn’t out of my mind with pain (I have a high tolerance to pain) but enough to put me out and not be at my best. If I was in shock or something, I know I wouldn’t have heard much of anything. It’s so important to have someone there with you to advocate and I’m thankful for Ken. I wonder if I could create a short lesson, say 30 minutes worth on hearing loss to give at staff meetings in doctor offices. Or at least write a brief essay everyone can read. Maybe there would be more understanding. Since the hard of hearing population is rising, it would be a good thing.

doodling

If it’s going to be colorful it might as well be my colors, right?

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9 responses to “The Medical Profession in Regards to Hearing Loss

  1. I can totally relate to your whole experience with doctors, nurses etc. Sometimes we are very lucky and you have a Dr. or nurse that is considerate speaks directly at you so you can read their lips. Other times some are almost nervous about dealing with deaf patients and the communication does not go well…
    My turn will come later this week as I have surgery scheduled. I am most nervous about the communication aspect of the whole ordeal…..

    • Good luck! It’s added chore on top of having to go to the doctor anyway. Maybe we can make little extendable flags that say “Hello! I’m deaf!” to wave around to get their attention when they forget. Or is that a little rude/direct again? lol I can fantasize!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I have often wondered why my doctors’ office doesn’t have a symbol or one word near my name, hearing impaired, a damn ear with a slash thru it? to remind each other that I have to be spoken to a certain way. Each time the same nurse goes thru getting my vitals and nearly shoves a hearing aid into my head by suddenly trying to jam the electronic thermometer into my ear. Then I take out my hearing aids and she proceeds to talk to me in a tiny voice with her back to me. Oy.

    • I am laughing with you from experience. You pegged it and I forgot to write in that part. I had to jerk my head to the side before she jammed it into my ear and tell her, “wait!” Maybe we should take a Sharpie marker in with us and ask to see our folders then write across DEAF all across the folder and underline it a couple of times. That might help them remember.

  3. ha! I might just do that.

  4. You get some good, you get some bad. I’m hearing impaired too, so I know what ypu’re going through. I have great empathy with those who have a hearing problem, and if they have to say “Eh?” once I look straight at them and repeat myself, making sure I “form” the words, not just repeat them. Makes it easier on both of us 🙂

  5. Hi Chelle,

    I’m a new follower to your blog. Working in the hearing profession, I can say that I definitely sympathize with your situation. Many of my hard of hearing clients have told me stories like yours. You should never be made to feel bad about having to request that someone speak up. If they are anything but completely cool with it, they have issues and just lack an understanding! Keep up the good blogging, I’ll be checkin’ in from time to time, I like your perspective.

    • Thanks Jeff. I try to remember to be nicer in my responses because people have no idea and forget out of habit. Sometimes I come across as harsh though but if that’s only sometimes, I do fairly well. Once in a great while people deserve a harsh reply though.

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