Living Well with Hearing Loss

Maximizing communication and improving the lives of individuals with hearing loss

Hearing loss and healthcare - 10/30/2014

Last week I threw out my back and had to have it x-rayed.   The x-ray technician had me twisting and turning into many different positions to get the right images. Many times, he gave me instructions while standing behind my back. I realized that a person with hearing loss might have difficulty understanding his instructions, so I asked him how he would instruct a patient who had a hearing loss. He responded, “I wouldn’t. I would just turn them the way I wanted them to go.”

This was a bit of a surprise and got me thinking, so at my next visit with my primary care provider, I asked how she communicates with patients that have a difficult time hearing. She said, “I just yell at them.”

I can’t think of a more important time to advocate for yourself and your hearing loss then when you are communicating about your health care. It is important that health care providers know that you have a hearing loss and how best to communicate with you. It’s acceptable to ask them to turn and face you or to slow down when asking you questions.  If radiology services are required, let the technician know up front that they need to face you when giving instructions. You may even want to bring a small flash light that the technician can shine on his face in the dark room so that you have visual cues.  Don’t be afraid to ask for written instructions – not only will that clarify any information you may have not heard correctly, but helps with memory as well. Your health care is important and misunderstandings can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. Be sure to communicate your needs to your health care provider and get clarification on unclear items before you leave.

Remember: Hearing loss isn’t necessarily a noticeable impairment and it’s important to educate the people in charge of your health.

Submitted by Melanie Dunne