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Help! I’m going to the hospital!

Going to the hospital is scary for anyone, but especially for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.  You can prepare yourself by buying or assembling a “Hospital Kit” to take with you.  There are several HLAA chapters that sell Hospital Kits and I recently purchased a very nice one from the Utah State Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (DSDHH)

The Utah DSDHH makes two kits, one for hard of hearing and one for Deaf patients.   Below are just some of the items included.  They sell for only $5.00 so it is well worth it, but if you’d like to create your own, it would be easy to do.

Some important elements of a hospital kit are:

1.  A bag or container to store your hearing aids or cochlear implant.


2.  A large sign to hang above your bed to let people know you are deaf or hard of hearing.

IMG_2591      IMG_2596

3.  Stickers and signs with the international symbol of access for hearing loss.
This symbol is available on the  Center for Hearing Loss Help website to download and print.


Stickers can be purchased from HLAA in various sizes.  Great for sticking on medical charts and on your call button at the nurse’s station so the nurse will (hopefully!) remember to come into the room to answer your call.


4.  A visual aid to communicate your level of pain.


5.  A special needs card.


6.  A small white board or a large writing tablet and pen.

7.  Assisted listening device – if you have a Personal Amplifiers or FM Listening system, be sure to bring them.  They can be especially useful if you have removed your hearing aids.

Hospitals should have these and more accommodations available to you, but sadly they often do not.  Please share your experiences with hospital stays.  Were you provided with accommodations or did you have to fend for yourself?  Were assisted listening devices available?  Do you have other suggestions for accommodations during a hospital stay?  Let us know!


7 Responses

  1. When I was in the hospital a few years ago,and recently in Emergency, the first thing I told the staff was that I was hard of hearing and look at me when they speak – it worked but at night whenI was awakened for blood and other tests, I had to reiterate the message and without my hearing aids (hospital stay)I really couldn’t hear the technician, who wasn’t too responsive. The button that says, “Please Face Me – I hear better when you do.” Should be worn by everyone with hearing loss who is in hospital, regardless of how long. The problem is, many people with hearing loss are too ashamed to do the simple things that would make their stay much easier.

  2. I’ve been hospitalized twice over the past three years for surgeries at Scripps Green Hospital. The worst problem that
    I encountered were the doctors…they wear masks over their mouths, speak with their backs to you, speak with clip
    boards in front of their faces…not all, but most doctors don’t have good bedside manners. Nurses on the other hand
    are much more aware & conscientious. My room had a chalk board on the wall and I wrote in big letters…”hard of hearing…I lip read so please look at me when speaking, thanks.” In surgery, the anesthesiologist sat on my deaf side, and of course
    he was wearing a mask & I had a cap over my head/ears. I talked with the doctors & nurses in the operating room just before my surgery, and I wouldn’t hesitate to write DEAF across my forehead. When you’re coming out of anesthesia, they have to know that you aren’t going to hear them talking to you. They use marking pens on your body before going into surgery to make sure that they’re operating on the right area, so it makes sense to do the same for the recovery room.

    My best tip is to just tell everyone you meet, every time you meet them, that you are HH/deaf and be specific about what need them to do. Most of all, attitude is everything…smile, laugh, ask nurses about themselves, & be the patient that you would’t mind taking care of. Nurses need a refuge from the complaining grumps!

    Hope your hospital stay is a good one…the kit looks great, but people become blind to signs. The personal interaction will cement your message.

  3. I agree with the above! the signs available look great, but if you are rushed off in an ambulance, you won’t have them. I had two surgeries back to back last fall (shattered femur) and told everyone I was HH, so look at me, etc. Everyone was helpful. At night when the nurse came, I’d say, “Just a minute” and slap on my cochlear implant. I never sleep well there, anyway. Dr’s appts seem harder, as the nurse or doc has the computer screen in front of them, so it’s harder for them to turn and look at you when they talk.

  4. I would like to share these comments from Arlene Romoff:sent to me in an email:

    I strongly advocate for the position that the hospital is responsible for the health needs of the patient – and it should not be the patient’s responsibility to educate the hospital staff members on appropriate communication access. The patient’s responsibility should be to alert the hospital of his hearing loss, preferred communication mode, and devices used (hearing aids, cochlear implants.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with bringing a “hospital kit” – but the hospital should be the one providing signs, assistive devices and alerting staff of the patient’s needs. Considering that approximately 50% of geriatric patients have a hearing loss, and are unlike to self-advocate for their communication needs, or even know what they need, the majority of patients aren’t about to be self-advocates or bring hospital kits. The hospital must address the patient’s needs proactively.

    I did document my cochlear implant hospital experience in my second book, “Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing” – in the episode on page 94, entitled “Arlene’s Electrifying Bilateral Cochlear Implant Surgery Episode”. I describe having a person assist me during my hospital stay, who acted as my ombudsman, fending for me in the pre-op, OR, recovery area, and alerting staff about my communication needs, including signage over my bed, and notes at nursing stations. The result of having a “Communication Assistant” is incredibly reduced stress.

    I strongly recommend that patients with hearing loss contact the Patient Advocate at the hospital prior to the hospital stay (or when admitted in emergency situations) to arrange for a Communications Assistant to fend for the patient and alert the staff – and also alert one’s doctor as well. Leaving this to the patient, to educate the nurses, doctors and staff – and having the responsibility fall to the patient is simply poor medical practice – resulting in increased stress, possible mistakes, misplacement of equipment and worse.

    I write the above from extensive experience – including the abyss of pain and suffering with no hearing in the pits of hospital hell.

    You’re welcome to share the above – and I welcome your questions as well.

    Best regards,

    Arlene Romoff
    Past President, Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey
    Author, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing
    Hear Again- Back to Life with a Cochlear Implant

  5. I agree with the comments made here that you must repeat over and over… and over: “I’m deaf, and I read lips.” You cannot say it too often. (The last time I was in the hospital in 2008, I decided to count the number of times I had to say this during the less-than-24 hours I was hospitalized. I stopped counting at 35.)

    As a deaf person, I sometimes rely on a hearing person to be a go-between when I’m dealing with issues over the phone or even in person, at the bank, etc. (I know: we shouldn’t rely on hearing people to be our advocates, but let’s face it – it happens.) So when we’re in the hospital, we don’t realize how important it is to speak up for ourselves. Not only must we be our own advocate, but we are also our ONLY advocate. Because there is a constant turn-over in hospital staff throughout the day, we cannot for a moment think that because we’ve told one nurse or aide we’re deaf that all of them will know. They won’t. Say it to every person who approaches your bed, and say it even if you think you’ve told them before. Don’t worry about being a nag – this is what you have to do in order to be taken seriously.

    I use the phrase, “I’m deaf and I read lips” because “hard-of-hearing” sounds like you just can’t hear as well as they can. Doesn’t sound very serious. But if someone hears, “I’m deaf,” they pay attention.

    In retrospect, the button would have been an excellent idea. Also, some kind of sign over the headboard.

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