“My son is not reacting well to the pain medication. What are some other options?” I asked the pain team doctors on their daily visit to my son’s hospital room during his recent stay.
“Mumble, mumble, switch to mumble mumble.”
“Can you please speak louder and slower? Remember, it is hard for me to hear you.” I had mentioned my hearing loss the prior day as well.
“It’s the masks.”
“But my throat is sore,” the doctor complained. And then, “I will try.” Seriously?
With no help in sight, I whipped out my phone and turned on Otter, the speech-to-text app I use in these types of situations. It was a huge help, but still missed some of the jargon and drug names. Thank goodness my husband was there with his set of typical hearing ears to fill in the blanks. But the situation highlights how challenging it can be for people with hearing loss to communicate effectively in a hospital setting.
Communication Access in Hospitals is Lacking
In We Hear You, our award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience, we address this issue head-on. In the captioned clip from the film below, Toni Iacolucci shares the heart wrenching experiences she faced when helping to coordinate her brother’s cancer treatment many years ago. Without appropriate communication access, she struggled to understand the doctor’s updates and suggestions.
Better communication access for people with hearing loss in a hospital setting would have eased the journey for both of them. So why isn’t it readily available, even today?
To watch the full documentary, visit Vimeo On Demand. Ten percent of proceeds will be donated to hearing loss charities.
Preparing for a Hospital Stay When You Have Hearing Loss
In my post How to Create a Hearing Loss Hospital Kit, I share the outstanding hospital kit created by the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA)’s Edmonton Branch. It is a great model for creating your own. The kit was constructed for when a person with hearing loss is the patient, but many of the tips and suggestions also apply when you are a caregiver.
Key elements include:
- Hearing loss identification cards, stickers & buttons: These will make it easier for doctors and other medical professionals to remain aware of your hearing loss. Visual reminders help keep communication lines open and effective.
- Communication tip sheets: While we might expect medical personnel to be trained in communicating with people with hearing loss, it isn’t always the case. Written best practice communication tips will help them understand how to make communication easier.
- Tech tools of various types: My speech-to-text-app was a life saver. Bring your apps and the other hearing assistive technologies that work for you. Since most require battery power to operate, pack extra batteries, plugs, and a long extension cord since power outlets may be few and far between.
Self-Advocacy Skills Are Key to Hospital Success
Hospital stays are stressful, involving numerous doctors with a variety of specialities and a confusing array of jargon and terminology. Decisions may need to be made rapidly, with doctors in and out of your room only at scheduled times. We must be prepared with our questions and speak up when we don’t understand, especially as a caregiver. Not only are we advocating for our communication needs, but for the proper and compassionate care for the people we love.
I am happy to report my son is home and recovering well. A big thank you to his medical team and to my hearing loss friends who have trained me well to advocate for my communication needs in every setting.
Readers, how do you manage your hearing loss in a hospital setting?