“Dear valued patient,” the letter began, “it is with some regret that I will be retiring from private practice.” My audiologist was selling her business. I put aside the letter with a heavy sigh. Why did I feel like I had suddenly lost my anchor and the hearing loss seas were getting rough? It was time to find a new audiologist.
Going to the doctor can be stressful under any circumstances, but add a hearing loss to the mix, and it can be downright scary. Doctors are notorious for their poor handwriting, but their oral communication skills can sometimes leave something to be desired as well. This may not be entirely fair, as doctors face increasing pressure to see more patients and perform more procedures each day simply to make ends meet.
Whatever the reason, many do not take the time needed to speak clearly and face the patient when providing important medical information or treatment instructions. Given these challenges, people with hearing loss must actively self-advocate in all health care situations.
I recently attended an informative session at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) 2017 Convention that discussed this very topic. Led by Toni Iacolucci (a hearing loss advocate and HLAA board member) and Jody Prysock (a certified sign language interpreter and patient advocate), the session provided useful tips for creating safer and more effective interactions with your doctors, in a variety of medical settings.
Does your hearing loss ever scare you? Most of the time I accept my hearing loss, following communication best practices and self-advocacy tips to live my best life. I feel confident and capable. But sometimes I get afraid. Like when my hearing aids are on the fritz for a few days or I have a particularly challenging communication experience. Or when I have a close call crossing the street or trouble remembering something.
These are the times when I succumb to worry. What will my life be like as my hearing loss worsens? How will it impact my relationships? My health? My livelihood?
Do you have a special someone in your life that is hard for you to hear? A mumbler, a low-talker or someone with a breathy voice? You are not alone. For better or worse, I sometimes avoid people I cannot hear well. In fact, it is usually mutual since neither of us is enjoying the conversation much.
But sometimes people are too important to let drift away — your parents, your siblings, your life-long friends, your children, your spouse — or even your boss at work. This poem is for them.
I recently had the opportunity to speak as part of a training module on accessibility to the front of house staff at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall and Alice Tully Hall. It is wonderful when influential cultural institutions take a leadership role in promoting the importance of accessibility to their employees. I was pleased to be a part of the presentation, and to highlight hearing loss as an accessibility issue for the ushers.
I share the text of my remarks below.