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American Annals of the Deaf

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Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter

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Hospitals may want to purchase an inexpensive program called “Access 2000 and the 4-Point Program for Hospitals” from the Hearing Loss Association of America.5 The program highlights four areas of concern—
  • Technology
  • Patient identification
  • Staff training
  • Publicity
The program offers training to hospital staff in learning how to identify hard of hearing or deaf people and how to work with them. It shows them how other hospitals have effectively met the ADA requirements for patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. The program emphasizes that hospital staff and patients must work together. If patients enter the hospital and do not identify themselves as deaf or hard of hearing, then how can hospital staff pool resources to help make patient stays as medically helpful and stress free as possible.

A large minority of the 28 million-plus individuals with some degree of hearing loss in the United States refuse to be identified as “hearing-impaired.” I prefer using the term “hard of hearing.” Others prefer “deaf ” or, capitalized “Deaf,” or prefer to say, “I have a loss of hearing” or “I don’t hear very well.” I urge all who are hard of hearing (or whatever phrase you are comfortable with) to identify yourselves as such when you enter a hospital or when you have a medical test, especially in a situation in which you cannot see the technician, for example, during mammography, MRI, x-ray or CAT scan. Ask in advance if you need to remove your hearing aids during the tests and, if so, figure out an alternative way for communicating with technicians.

Some suggestions for hospital staff include the necessity of sensitizing personnel as to the special needs of people with hearing losses, such as the need to—

  • Provide adequate, glare-free lighting.
  • Control background noise for all hearing-aid wearers.
  • Make needed visual modifications to auditory fire alarm systems.
  • Change evaluation procedures which require speaking and hearing. Provide interpreters where required.
  • Free a patient’s hands and arms for signing and gesturing.
The upshot for deaf and hard of hearing people in medical situations is when you have individual needs, work with your healthcare providers to find solutions. You know what works best for you so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. If you do these things and know your legal rights, you will be able to get proper treatment in medical facilities. It will end up as a win-win situation for you and for the health care personnel involved. I have learned that when I speak openly with medical technicians, nurses and doctors about my needs, they accommodate me beautifully. Even now, with a cochlear implant, my batteries can die, the device easily slips off my scalp and I am once again deaf.

5. The program is in the process of being converted from video format to DVD format and having its labeling changed from SHHH to HLAA to reflect the organization’s name changes, but the new version should be available soon.
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