The Third Experience

The Third Experience:  Overcoming Technical Difficulties

In this experience, Jeff Moen shares an experience he had visiting a friend in the ICU. The friend is deaf and uses a cochlear implant, but does not know sign language.

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Learning from the Third Experience

This situation introduces a new challenge to consider in working with patients who are deaf or hard of hearing: technical difficulties. People may use a variety of assistive devices to communicate. Obviously, it is important for them to be in working order and as Jeff said, it would be helpful to know how to get something fixed if it is broken. (If you are in a setting with an audiology department, this could be a good resource.) You also can contact the state of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services ~ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division for referral to resources.

Here are some potential devices that you may encounter:

Generally, you might expect people with different identities to use different accommodations. For example, someone who is late deafened may be more likely to have a cochlear implant. A person who is hard of hearing may be more likely to use an amplified headset for a telephone, and a person who is deaf may be more likely to use a videophone so they can communicate in American Sign Language through a video relay service that has interpreters on call to interpret phone calls.

That said, individuals are unique and may use accommodations successfully that don’t fit with your expectations. Once again, it is important to ask the patient what works best for her or him.

Of course, as made clear in this video, if the technology is broken, even asking that question might be a challenge. Once you do establish communication, however, it is clear why it is worth the effort.

Making the Environment Accessible

In addition to direct communication, it is also important to keep in mind ways to make the environment accessible. If a patient is hospitalized, here are some things to consider:

  • Identify deaf and hard of hearing patients upon admission. With their permission, put appropriate indications on the charts, above the bed, on the identification wristband and at the nurse’s station.
  • Respond to call button in person. Rather than being able to respond over the intercom, someone will generally need to go to the patient’s room to communicate. (This may be different if an interpreter is present at the time.)
  • Use visual alerts to respect privacy. When entering a room, it is standard practice to announce your presence by knocking. This often is not effective. In the Deaf community, a common method for getting attention or alerting someone is flipping the lights on and off.

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The Transcript of The Third Experience video

I recently went to visit a friend in the hospital. He’s in the ICU. He also has a cochlear implant. And because he’s in there for heart issues and kidney issues, he has quite a bit of drugs in him which makes him very disoriented.

He was having a very difficult time communicating with people. He does not sign. When I asked when I got there to visit him, why he did not have his processor on, they explained that it had been dropped and that they couldn’t get it back together properly. And it wasn’t working.

I was able to help them get it put back together, get it on and get everything but the volume set up, which, of course, he has to do himself. But him, being disoriented, was not able to do that for them.

I just wish that there would have been someone that they could have called, an audiologist or somebody that could have come down and clued them in on how this worked.

They were very appreciative that they got some help for it, but, I don’t know, could there be a list of people that they could call so that they could say, “Could you come down and help us so that we can communicate with this person?”

As soon as he got the processor on and he was able to understand them, he was much better able to communicate what his needs were and help them so that they can take care of the needs.

It was a good feeling to be able to help them out, but I felt pretty bad for him because it had been about a day and a half that he hadn’t had any sound. And I just wonder how much harder it was for everyone involved to communicate because they just didn’t know those simple things. Just having somebody nearby or a doctor, anybody in the hospital that could come down and help them would have been really great.

Hopefully that will help.

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