If you have a hearing loss and are facing a hospital admission in the near future, it may not occur to you that your condition might have an impact on the time that you spend on the ward. This is especially true if your hearing loss has only recently been diagnosed. Hospitals are frightening enough without suddenly finding out that the medical professionals looking at your bedside are discussing your case, and you can’t hear what they are saying.
You can make the whole process a lot easier if you contact the hospital in advance to find out what resources it has available to assist patients with hearing loss. The admissions office should be able to put you in touch with someone whose job it is to provide you with the information you need. To help kick-start the process, here is a list of recommended questions you should ask your doctor and the hospital personnel before you are admitted.
Before the operation
What should I bring with me to the hospital to help manage my hearing loss while I am there?
You should bring along a pad and pencil so that the staff can write down important information and spell out medical terms.
Should I tell the hospital staff that I have a hearing loss?
Absolutely. While you are in the recovery room, the doctors and nurses will be very interested in whether or not you respond to stimuli. If you are unable to answer questions because you cannot hear them speaking to you, they may think there is something seriously wrong with you as a direct result of the operation. You should also tell them if you use hearing aids or sign language.
Will the doctors give me medicine that will increase my hearing loss?
Some medicines to have hearing loss as a side effect. This is why it is especially important that the medical staff are aware of it.
While I am on the ward, will there be anything to let me know if there is an emergency, like a fire alarm, or if someone has entered the room?
There are devices that do this. Ask the hospital what it has available.
What about captioning or assistive listening devices for the television?
Yes. Again, ask the hospital what is available.
Will I be able to wear my hearing aids during the operation?
Hospital policy and the type of surgery you are having will determine whether you can wear your hearing aids in the operating room. If you are not allowed to wear them while the doctor is performing the surgery, you may be able to ask one of the nurses to put them in place as you are being wheeled out of recovery and back to your room.
Does the hospital have a Pocketalker or type of portable FM or amplifier that I may use during my admission?
These devices amplify sounds that are close to you while lowering background noise. They are perfect for communicating in small groups and are particularly useful if you do not have any other hearing aids.
Managing hearing loss during the operation
What if I can’t hear the doctors and nurses speaking to me in the operating room?
Operating staff may need to let you know to expect the intravenous solution to sting a little bit, or that they will be sticking electrodes to your chest. Let everyone in the operating room know if you read lips. They may be able to wear see-through masks or remove them when they are speaking to you.
After the operation
Will there be a sign posted above my bed indicating my hearing loss?
You may need to specifically request this; the hospital may not do it as a matter of course because of patient privacy. It is a good idea to have one, particularly at night, when you may not be wearing a hearing aid. The night staff may not be aware of your hearing loss. While your hearing loss should be documented in your hospital notes, staff often start speaking to you before they have looked at your chart.
What if I can’t hear the nursing staff over the intercom?
Ask them to place a sticker indicating your hearing loss at the nursing station on the intercom for your bed. Because they will need to come into your room to communicate with you, they may decide to put you in a bed close to the desk.
Will the operation make my hearing worse?
In very rare cases, surgery and/or anesthesia can result in hearing loss. Spinal anesthetics can affect fluids in the ear; hearing loss may also occur following coronary bypass. Bring a copy of your most recent hearing tests to the hospital and ask to discuss the subject with your surgeon and/or anesthesiologist.
Careful planning and advance communication with the hospital will help to make your stay as pleasant and anxiety-free as possible.