Hearing loss and hospitals are a difficult combination. The environment is hectic and you are probably not feeling your best. Doctors and other medical staff are often masked, dampening the sound of their voices and hiding lip reading cues. Due to Covid-19, family or friends may not be allowed to accompany you to help advocate for your needs. It is up to you to make sure you understand your diagnosis and the decisions that are required for your care. Hearing loss can make that challenging. Proper preparation is the key to success. Build your hearing loss hospital kit today, so it is ready to go if you need it.
Building the Ideal Hearing Loss Hospital Kit
It is important to prepare ahead of time so you are ready to go in case of emergency. The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA)’s Edmonton Branch has created an outstanding hospital kit that is a great model for creating your own. Thank you to them for sharing a sample with me. Their excellent kit includes:
Planning guides and information
The kit contains several brochures to help you prepare for a hospital stay. Information includes a list of items to ask for before you arrive at the hospital such as an amplified telephone and a captioned TV in your room. If you need accommodations like CART, you must request these ahead of time too.
There are individual tips sheets that can be shared with nurses, doctors, and administrators. Each provides targeted suggestions to improve communication that will help make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)’s Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care is another great source of information for handling your hearing loss in a medical setting.
Hearing loss identification cards, stickers & buttons
Since hearing loss is invisible, visual reminders of your hearing loss are critical. Many are included in CHHA’s kit. Consider wearing the button that says, “Please speak louder, clearly and face me,” to remind staff about your condition. Affix a similar message to your hospital gown.
The kit also includes two brightly colored signs declaring “I am Hard of Hearing!” for display above or beside your bed. There are also several small stickers emblazoned with the international symbol for hearing loss that can be placed on your medical chart to remind personnel about your hearing loss every time they review your case.
Even with these visual aids, you may still need to remind staff about your hearing loss at the start of each shift. Do so with a smile.
Communication tip sheets
The kit includes several copies of CHHA’s “How to Help Our Communication” tip sheet so you can share it with multiple caregivers. The directions are basic, but critical for better communication in any setting, but especially in an emotionally charged hospital room.
The sheet says:
- Get my attention before talking
- Face me — I need to see your face to lipread
- Speak clearly — don’t over emphasize or shout
- If possible, turn off background noise
- Don’t cover your mouth
- Rephrase if misunderstood
- Write down important information
- Ask me to repeat vital facts to be sure I understand correctly
If verbal communication is still not working well, a pen and small notebook are included in the kit as a backup. You may prefer to use a speech-to-text app on your smartphone, a boogie board or small reusable whiteboard to aid with communication. If so, be sure to bring them and any required chargers with you.
Ways to keep your hearing aids safe and operational
Hearing aids are easy to misplace at the hospital. You may need to remove them for a procedure or to sleep. This kit includes a blue plastic container where you can keep your hearing aids safely. It is labeled with your name, the number of hearing aids and the international symbol for hard of hearing. This is also a good place to store your extra hearing aid batteries.
One of my favorite parts of the kit is a simple Ziplock bag with a safety pin inside. Use this to safely stash your aids if they need to be removed when you are outside your hospital room. Label the bag with your name and pin it to your gown so your hearing aids are not misplaced.
Also included is a hearing aid battery tester which makes it easier for staff to trouble shoot faulty devices. Sometimes all that is needed is a new battery to get a device working again.
Personalize the Kit with Your Hearing Loss Necessities
Customize the base kit with items specific to your hearing loss and the devices that you use to hear your best. This includes lots of extra batteries and all the chargers you will need. Label everything with your name and phone number since many chargers look alike. Add an extension cord in case nearby outlets are full with medical equipment.
Consider swapping out for a spare device
If you have spare devices, bring them as well in case of a malfunction. Or if the back-up devices are fairly recent, consider using them in the hospital instead, keeping your primary and more expensive technology safe at home. The same goes for expensive assistive listening devices like Roger pens. If a smartphone app works almost as well, that may be the less risky choice for a hospital setting.
For more information on how to make your own hearing hospital kit, please contact the CHHA—Edmonton branch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers, do you have a hearing loss hospital kit?