Monday, September 27, 2010
Paging Dr. Carter
Okay, there's not really any Dr. Carter involved in this post, but I think that generally, Noah Wyle just makes things better. Why yes, I did blubber like a teenage girl when ER ended, why do you ask?
So I went to the dentist last week and I honestly don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. They used the word “cavities” a lot. And also “cost” and “insurance.” Thumbs. Down. But the most hilariously sad thing was the dental assistant. Dental hygienist? Tooth lady? I don’t know. Anyway, this is not the dentist’s office I normally go to. Why, you ask? Well, that is a fantastic question and I will tell you that the dentist I grew up going to was still asking me, at 22 years old, how school was going (I graduated) and would keep talking to me with the mask on (I’d been going to him for like 20 years. The man knows I can’t understand him with his mouth covered). So I decided it was time to move on.
I had such high hopes for New Dentist. He had an email form on his website, which meant I didn’t have to use the dang phone to make an appointment. WIN. He was recommended by my boss, so I’m pretty sure it’s insurance compatible. WIN. He actually took his mask off to talk to me and made sure I could see him. WIN. WIN. WIN.
But before I saw him, I met Tooth Lady (I know, that’s such a disrespectful term. But it makes me giggle so we’re going with it, uh-kay?). Tooth Lady did her Tooth Lady thing and scraped and x-rayed and polished my not-that-pearly-but-okay whites. And she would not stop talking to me when she was out of my line of vision or with her mask on. And I told her so. many. times. that I was hard of hearing and needed to see her when she talked. Clearly, she was not getting that memo. She would give me instructions with her mask on and I would say, “I’m sorry, I need to see your mouth so I can lipread.” She would move the mask like, a hair south, and keep talking. “I’m really sorry,” I’d repeat, “but I can’t see your lips.” Another nudge and oh wait is that the shadow of her top lip? Glory be, we’re making progress! I’d try one more time, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I really cannot see you!” You guys, I was like two steps away from reaching up and pulling the dang mask off myself! Then she’d finally remove it and we did this little dance not once but at least two or three times the whole visit. Maybe I should have started signing to her and evened the playing field!
Healthcare professionals are sometimes among the most frustrating when it comes to communication. Maybe I just expect too much out of them. I tend to think that because (in my opinion) hearing loss is a medical issue that doctors, nurses and other professionals should be best equipped to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing patients. It's not the most airtight logic, I know (I mean, I don't expect my dentist to tell me what's wrong with my lungs, or an allergist to know all about brain injuries, so no, not every healthcare professional is going to know about hearing loss), but I do have higher expectations for them. I really shouldn't, though, not when even audiologists could use a refresher course! I've had audiologists who would talk to me with their back turned or when they knew my hearing aids were out. These are professionals who have my audiogram (hearing test results) in front of them, work at least 40 hours a week with people who wear hearing aids and stay abreast of the latest hearing technology... but even they forget (or just flat out don't know) how to talk to their patients. So how can I expect professionals in other healthcare-related fields to stay on top of communication?
I don't normally ask for an interpreter or any other assistance when I go to the doctor because most of the time, they're routine appointments and they're nothing I can't handle on my own. But over the last year and a half or so, I've found myself in more situations where I wish I had requested an interpreter. I kind of wish I had had one with me in the dentist's office that day. I've had other appointments where I didn't realize until I left that I hadn't gotten quite all of the information - luckily it was never a life-or-death situation, but still, when it's my health on the line, I'd like to make sure I know exactly what's going on.