Hard of hearing/deaf nursing students or nurses?

  1. Happy New Year! My question relates to my hearing disability. I'm 33yrs old and have been diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss about 3yrs ago. I didn't realized that this was going to be a problem until I got accepted into the nursing program (2nd choice--I was still on the waiting list for #1) and barely could hear my clinical instructor's soft voice. She told me that if the program was made aware that I had a "disability" that they wouldn't have accepted me. To make a story short, I got discouraged by the lack of resources at that program and their attitude that I decided not to go back and was contemplating about a career change. However, after almost 2yrs I decided to try nursing again, this time with the program of my first choice. They didn't have that many resources either, but at least they were helpful and they tried to accomodate me in everyway they could. I also finally purchased hearing aids; which I was hesitant in the first place because of the stigma.

    My question is, have any of you encountered an obstacle due to your hearing disablity but were able to overcome it, be it as a nursing student or as a nurse? Also, how were you able to manage through school and clinical? Every time I have to use my stethoscope I need to take out my hearing aids and it can be annoying. I was wondering if any of you know of a special stethoscope that can be used with hearing aids? or headphones or special ear tips that can replace the regular kind? I've heard about amplified stethoscopes, but those are very expensive.

    Thank you for all the information that you can give me. I think this is one of the reasons I always get anxious during clinical...the ability to hear or not to hear...
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  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   llg
    What is your long-term prognosis? Will your hearing continue to deteriorate?

    I ask these questions because you need to take that into consideration in your career planning. I am completely deaf in one ear, but have normal hearing in the other. I lost 100% function in my right ear suddenly at the age of 38, after already being an advanced practice nurse for many years.

    My hearing loss poses little problem for me and it is not expected to deteriorate further. However, I have met many other hoh nurses through online groups such as this one and know that many have struggled to maintain careers as bedside nurses as their hearing deteriorated over time. A mild hearing loss is usually mangable with special stethescopes, etc., but if your hearing loss becomes significant, a busy nursing unit will not a good work environment for you.

    If you anticipate further hearing loss, you'll need to plan a career (possibly in nursing) that will work with your disability. That might require graduate school, certifications, particular clinical preparation, etc. Please don't set yourself up for failure by not planning for these things if you need to. I have yet to meet any nurse working at the bedside with a "significant" hearing loss. .... mild hearing loss, "yes" .... but moderate to profound loss, "no."

    I wish you the best of luck,
    llg
  4. by   Daytonite
    I worked with a CNA who had a significant hearing loss since she was a child. She wore dual hearing aides. She heard well with the hearing aids and I heard her once discussing coclear inplants with the speech therapist at the LTC where we worked. She may have had them, I don't know. I didn't know she had a hearing problem (if it was even that) until I overheard this conversation. Then I began to realize that her speech patterns weren't entirely the same as everyone else. She had probably been deaf since early childhood. This young lady was determined to get into nursing school. I think you should talk with an audiologist about this, not the ones in the offices that sell hearing aids, but someone who tests and teaches about hearing disorders, perhaps through a clinic of a school of audiology.

    Just as an aside, we were talking about this the other day. There, apparently is a bit of a trend to start teaching babies sign language because they pick it up easily and are able to convey their wants much more efficiently this way until they are able to learn verbal language at a later age. I thought that was kind of fascinating. Guess this must be something they picked up from the studies with chimpanzees and sign language.
    Last edit by Daytonite on Jan 1, '06
  5. by   1Tulip
    1. There are amplified stethoscopes. I know some docs with hearing impairments that use them. Littman makes a good one.

    2. You got hearing aids. Good. Do some homework on hearing aids. They are not just simple amplifiers anymore. They have chips in them that pick up background noises, recognize them as such, then tune them out. They also are tuned to human voice frequencies, etc. They're getting more directional. They're also getting smaller. So the technology may be significant to your career. Stay abreast of developments.

    I had a student once who was significantly hoh. He basically couldn't communicate with pts. unless he was looking at their mouths. It wasn't safe and the faculty had to tell him that. But then the dean used some discretionary funds to which she had access and bought him hearing aids. (Can you believe it?) He did fine after that.
  6. by   NHNurseMan
    Quote from wackymole
    Happy New Year! My question relates to my hearing disability. I'm 33yrs old and have been diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss about 3yrs ago. I didn't realized that this was going to be a problem until I got accepted into the nursing program (2nd choice--I was still on the waiting list for #1) and barely could hear my clinical instructor's soft voice. She told me that if the program was made aware that I had a "disability" that they wouldn't have accepted me. To make a story short, I got discouraged by the lack of resources at that program and their attitude that I decided not to go back and was contemplating about a career change. However, after almost 2yrs I decided to try nursing again, this time with the program of my first choice. They didn't have that many resources either, but at least they were helpful and they tried to accomodate me in everyway they could. I also finally purchased hearing aids; which I was hesitant in the first place because of the stigma.

    My question is, have any of you encountered an obstacle due to your hearing disablity but were able to overcome it, be it as a nursing student or as a nurse? Also, how were you able to manage through school and clinical? Every time I have to use my stethoscope I need to take out my hearing aids and it can be annoying. I was wondering if any of you know of a special stethoscope that can be used with hearing aids? or headphones or special ear tips that can replace the regular kind? I've heard about amplified stethoscopes, but those are very expensive.

    Thank you for all the information that you can give me. I think this is one of the reasons I always get anxious during clinical...the ability to hear or not to hear...
    I have profound loss on one side and have a hearing aid as well as a cardonics amplified stethescope that has an attachment that goes directly to my aid. I am quite happy with it, the beauty of the story is how I got it.

    I went to the disabilities coordinator on campus and asked about any help they may be able to provide regarding my loss. She allowed me to use an amplifier for classes; it had a microphone and transmitter for the instructor and a receiver with headphones for me. It worked great for classes, but obviously for clinicals I needed something else. The disabilities coordinator directed me to the state Vocational Rehab office. I went there and after doing all the paperwork and meeting the qualifications I got a digital hearing aid that has three different setting and the amplified stethescope for free as a person with a disability changing careers. I don't know where you live but you might check out VocRehab for any programs they might have available. In some cases, depending on your situation there may even be some financial assistance available.

    Finally, I would report the school that made the comment about not accepting you if they knew you were hearing impaired. SHAME ON THEM!!!!
    If any perspective employer or school made any comment like that to me I'd come unglued and explain that there are laws against that. At my school the instructors bend over backwards to ensure my hearing loss isn't a concern up to and including allowing me to have a note taker in class for me.

    Good Luck in all of your endeavors and I hope that your goal of Nursing School becomes a reality, don't let something like a little hearing loss stop you.
  7. by   grinnurse
    Quote from 1Tulip
    1. There are amplified stethoscopes. I know some docs with hearing impairments that use them. Littman makes a good one.

    2. You got hearing aids. Good. Do some homework on hearing aids. They are not just simple amplifiers anymore. They have chips in them that pick up background noises, recognize them as such, then tune them out. They also are tuned to human voice frequencies, etc. They're getting more directional. They're also getting smaller. So the technology may be significant to your career. Stay abreast of developments.

    I had a student once who was significantly hoh. He basically couldn't communicate with pts. unless he was looking at their mouths. It wasn't safe and the faculty had to tell him that. But then the dean used some discretionary funds to which she had access and bought him hearing aids. (Can you believe it?) He did fine after that.
    What a wonderful Dean to have done that for that student!! I myself am beginning to notice some hearing loss and purchased an ultrascope, but am saving up money for one of the more expensive littmans b/c I think that it will improve greatly my hearing. Good luck
  8. by   Marvie
    I wanted to let you know that I am an RN who works in the OR and I am profoundly deaf bilaterally, wear 2 BTE, sign and lipread, and speak well. My loss is genetic and progressive and my employer knows and so do my coworkers and the docs I work with. They have all been really great. It can be a challenge having that much hearing loss, but not impossible.:smiley_aa
    Last edit by Marvie on Sep 1, '07
  9. by   lylega
    I agree regarding the part about the fact that they should not have discriminated against you for having a disability. That is illegal, especially for schools that accept state or federal funding. The small cc where I attend has personnel devoted to accomodating those with disabilities and/or barriers to learning. I have worked with several people who are hoh, and they perform as well as anybody else. I think a lot of it depends on your attitude and approach to the situation, and how well you adapt. Good luck with your endeavors.

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