I arrived at my MRI appointment, my mind racing with fear. It wasn’t enough that I needed to worry about my health, but because of my hearing loss, I had to worry about how my health care was delivered as well.
Where would I securely store my hearing aids when I wasn’t wearing them?
How would I communicate with the technician when my hearing aids were out?
How would I protect my hearing in this loud environment?
Lucky for me, an unexpected hearing loss friend helped ease my experience. If only all healthcare workers were trained to have the same empathy and communication skills!
An Unexpected Hearing Loss Friend Eased my Journey
MRIs are loud and because they use magnets, all metal must be removed. The nurse handed me a gown and showed me to a changing room where I was to leave everything in a secure locker—including my hearing aids! I let the nurse know that I would not be able to communicate well with her or with the technician once my hearing aids were removed. She was sympathetic, but didn’t have much to say other than, “Wait here.”
But then a pleasant surprise.
The technician arrived and when I explained my situation, she immediately faced me and spoke very clearly so that I could speechread much of what she was saying. I complemented her on her terrific communication skills and that’s when she told me about her young daughter who had hearing loss.
She had recently been implanted with a cochlear implant and the family was still adjusting. Things were going well, but they had much work to do to educate the teachers and staff at her elementary school about hearing loss. We compared notes and were able to have a bit of a conversation—even with my devices out.
Once in the MRI room, it was incredibly loud. The technician placed headphones on my head to protect my ears from the noise and wore her own pair too. She lowered her mask again to provide instructions. She was kind, patient, empathetic and an excellent and effective communicator!
Why? Because she understood the challenges her daughter faced and how to meet them. More education is needed so others can understand too. Knowledge leads to empathy, which is a sure fire way to improve care.
Readers, do you have trouble at medical appointments because of your hearing loss?
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20 thoughts on “Taking an MRI with Hearing Loss”
Constantly. Between opaque masking and the lack of interest in using good clear ones, I absolutely MUST use my speech to text and explain why. Appointments are nerve wracking because often some glitch comes up and I have to punt. Exhausting.
It is exhausting, but we have no choice but to persevere. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Agree with you, Susan. There’s much anxieties going to healthcare appointments! I still do the best I can, though.
Absolutely! Thank you for your comment.
You were fortunate to have a compassionate and empathetic tab technician for your MRI test. Bravo for communicating as much as you did. I have had many MRIs when I wore my hearing loss.In any hospital and medical setting I make sure a sign language interpreter is available or find out in advance if the person articulates and speaks clearly to lipread. A rule of thumb is always be up front and let staff know I have a hearing loss. Then I take the time to let them know what I cannot hear like a nurse walking in front of me, etc. Once we are in the noisy lab, I share I will be taking my device off. This includes my cochlear implant but the radiologist has to check with the CI manufacturer what level the MRI is being set at.Here is the key in any medical setting…do it with humor but serious. I ask them to explain in detail what the technician is going to do, what positions I have to be in, do I need to hold my breath, and hand signals for certain actions during and after.I always have a special case I carry with me to put my device(s) in for security and safety purposes. All the info above eliminates any fear or uncertainty and allows the patient to focus on their health.
Thank you for sharing your tips.
What a challenge medical appointments have been during the pandemic. I’ve had several new diagnosis’s during the past three years…thankfully none of them life threatening, but certainly life changing. Most doctors, nurses and technicians do their best to accommodate my hearing loss. Those who could not look up from their computers, change their rate of speech, or send me home with written notes or instructions are no longer my doctors.
Good for you. Self advocacy is key. Thank you for joining the discussion.
I was hoping you might touch on the danger MRIs pose for those of us with cochlear implants. Because of the magnetism of MRIs, there is great risk of damage to our heads and to our implants unless the implant areas are properly protected. A HLAA NYC colleague with a cochlear implant was fortunate a few years ago to survive an MRI without protection.
I haven’t yet had need of an MRI, chiefly because CT scans were an acceptable alternative.
I’ve read that MRIs can be done safely for people with certain types of CI implants or, if not, the implant areas can be packed with protection against the effects of the magnetism. But everyone with CIs should be cautious and advise providers of their special need when MRIs are being considered.
Great points! Thank you for sharing the information here.
LIke you, I was fearful on having to have an MRI, mainly that I wouldn’t be able to hear the technician’s instructions with my hearing aids out. I survived it but hope I don’t ever have to have another one.
Glad it went well. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks for bringing up the MRI issue for those with cochlear implants, Jerry. When I got my first c.i. in 2009, the warnings about MRI’s were scary! I pictured the MRI flying out of my head if I got near the MRI machine, much less in it. But since then I’ve been reassured that there are ways around the danger. Definitely do mention to the staff — well before you arrive for your procedure — if you have a c.i. though.
Good advice. Thanks for sharing.
You were very fortunate to have a kind and understanding technician. My mom had a serious hearing impairment and many years back had to have an MRI. She could not hear without her hearing aids and they had to be removed for the test. To add to that she was claustrophobic. After she was inside the small quarters for awhile, she became very nervous and began to panic and could not hear or talk to anyone so she began to punch the upper part of the container with her fists and the technician rolled her out and was very annoyed at the whole situation. They did the test again the next day and they sedated her.
Sorry to hear that. It is not fun. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I’m glad you were fortunate enough to have a compassionate health care worker. Like others have posted I also have a CI and do not know any “work-around” other than to have it removed when in need of an MRI. Current MRI machines operate at 3Tesla, double what is approved for a “protected” MRI with my Cochlear implant. A problem when I contemplated having one after a cancer diagnosis a few years ago. Weeks of radiation therapy was certainly challenging as I had my CI processor and HA removed.
It is a challenge. Thank you for sharing your experience. You are not alone.