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Nursing with a Hearing Loss

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by Dempather Dempather (Member)

Dempather specializes in Emergency Room, Cardiology, Medicine.

4,693 Visitors; 182 Posts

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Hi all,

This has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with.. and then finally bring to a forum so I can get some feedback. I'm 22 years old, started working on a medical unit in a hospital almost a year ago now. I really love my job - nurses are supportive, the floor is heavy, but I'm holding my own and at that point when I'm finally "catching on" and becoming more comfortable with myself and my abilities.

I've had a hearing loss for as long as I can remember. I remember being a kid and taking those tests in school and always falling a little bit short. I want to clarify something - when I say "hearing loss", I mean that in a pretty light sense. Speaking with somebody face to face is never a problem for me, something I am very fortunate for. If you met me on the street, I'd have no problem holding a conversation and you'd walk away never thinking that there's a problem at all.

The problems begin when I'm speaking with somebody who has a soft voice or is facing away from me or there's a lot of background noise. My friends and family know of it and can adjust (with of course, friendly jabs every now and then). When applying this to where I work.. the biggest trouble I have is hearing somebody call for me when I'm far from the nurses station. Also, when somebody's trying to say something while walking away (as you can imagine is quite often when people are busy)... I definitely hear myself saying "what?" or asking somebody to repeat themselves often enough throughout the night.

I can communicate well with patients for the most part.. I practice safely.. and nobody mistakes my "not answering" to me "slacking off" or being somewhere else and not doing my job. Patients normally yell loud enough for me to hear them if there's trouble and I haven't come across one that hasn't. Nonethless, this has bothered me for quite some time now..

I'm looking to see if there's any other nurse out there with a minor hearing loss... how he/she copes when the world isn't always so receptive to people who need things repeated (easy to misinterpret and think they're not listening). I've researched hearing aids... my ENT doctor says I'm too young and that communicating normally is all that matters. I dont' think I can come to terms with wearing one yet, anyway...

My questions to you - are there fields of nursing that require more face to face contact? In a smaller settings? Something more hearing-loss friendly? I used to do clinicals on a floor where nurses had pagers... my hospital doesn't have that but that worked well.

I was tentative to tell my boss of this problem, mainly because, in the jist of things, it's not a huge thing that would affect the care I provide to my patients. I also find it difficult explaining it to others because it does upset me.. and reactions differ widely. I dont' know if that's something that future employers should be more aware of.

Gosh, this is long.. and I thank anybody whose stuck around long enough to read it in its entirety. I really appreciate the time and feedback. :)

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1 Follower; 32,252 Visitors; 6,978 Posts

1) i would consider this more than a minor loss...

2) what is the genesis of the problem? ie conductive or nerve?

3) have you been thoroughly worked up?

4) if your hosp has pagers for docs maybe you could get one?

5) i would inform all employers (i DO)

6) it is time for hearing aides when it interfers with you life, not

when the doc thinks it is time......seek couseling if acceptance

is an issue.............good luck

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626 Visitors; 6 Posts

If its affect your performance as a nurse.. go and solve it.. get some hearing aid. at least it is much better if ur doing something to improve your performance rather than losing your job

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962 Visitors; 8 Posts

Go to the Bureau of Vocatinal Rebabilitation. In Ohio the BVR is a division of Ohio Rehibilitation Services Commission (a state office). Be sure that you get a counselor that is familiar with audiology and hearing loss, if possible. They may pay for you to have hearing aides and an electronic stethoscope. They paid for me. I am a nursing student. If it concerns you, then it is a problem. They will explain the whole process and what you need to do.

I wish you much success.

Bev :redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe:idea::redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe:redpinkhe

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57,430 Visitors; 10,263 Posts

I have a mild hearing loss that was more a PITA than anything, very much as you describe. One hearing aid in my worse ear did the trick.

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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

5 Followers; 58,009 Visitors; 13,047 Posts

I agree with the others. If it's enough to effect your work performance and it bothers you, then you should deal with it head on. Get the assistance you need.

I am totally deaf in one ear and have "almost normal" hearing in the other. At this time, I do not wear a hearing aid because its benefits for people like me is not so clear. Some monaural people wear aids: others choose not to. I choose not to. So, I can understand your reluctance to get into the whole hearing aid thing. However, if your hearing has become enough of a problem that that it is causing you distress and/or harming your career, maybe it is time to look into getting a little help.

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Dempather specializes in Emergency Room, Cardiology, Medicine.

4,693 Visitors; 182 Posts

I appreciate your replies with this... as it is a sensitive topic for me. My hearing loss is funny.. I find that, at times, it bothers me more than others. Since I first started this thread, I have been able to discuss this issues with nurses on my floor... who have similar situations. What I find I needed most were people to relate to my condition... and that alone has helped me quite a great deal.

I'm due for an audiology appointment soon, which I plan to go to. Maybe one of my biggest problems was how I thought people would perceive me (dumb, not listening.. etc).

Thanks, again. :)

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1,227 Visitors; 46 Posts

I am deaf in one ear (born that way) and have struggled at times to hear what's being said. I cannot locate where sounds are coming from, and people who talk softly are very difficult to hear. Point is, after many years of dealing with this, I just frankly tell people that I'm hard of hearing and they'll have to speak up. No one laughs or acts awkward--mostly they are just happy to help.

I graduate this summer, so I'm conscious about where I will work. I'm a little concerned with specialties like ER where there is potential for shouting or chaos.

BTW, I own an electronic stethoscope. That makes my life so much easier. You might try one if you haven't already.

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585 Visitors; 13 Posts

I also have some hearing loss just as has been described here. I

believe that there are some areas that would definitely be troublesome to those of us with mild to moderate hearing loss. I know for myself, I've worked in surgery for 32 years (ugh) and in these later years have found my hearing is becoming worse. I always have to ask everyone to repeat themselves.

I think that some areas to avoid, because of too much background noise, would be: OR, ER, ICU (because of the combined noises of monitors beeping, respirators, etc.), and possibly CCU. Seems the more critical the area, the more noise you have- all that I've mentioned plus lots of personnel talking.

But this is strictly my own opinion based on my experiences.

Good luck in whatever you do!

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theatredork has 6 years experience and specializes in Public Health.

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I've actually had very similar experiences with hearing loss. I have a moderate hearing loss in both ears that require hearing aids. My hearing loss has been the same since whenever I incurred the loss.

I've worked in an ER and ICU over the last 5 years, but I always made it a point to let my coworkers know that I have a hearing loss. I just started working in an ICU as my first nursing job recently. I've been okay so far, though it is hard when there's a lot of background noise. I've had my current hearing aids for roughly 5 or 6 years, so it's time for a new set. I plan on getting the best ones this time around, instead of the cheap Costco hearing aids.

The thing is, it doesn't affect my job at all. I can assess a patient competently, and I can use any old stethoscope without a problem. I just have to take out one hearing aid to use my stethoscope (I just use the better ear to listen). I ask people to repeat things often, but I also ask them to speak up.

The biggest challenge for me has been to truly listen to what's being said rather than hearing and lip-reading, since masks are often worn. During my pre-employment physical, I was able to hear questions in a low voice with the person facing away from me. I have excellent speech discrimination.

I think I jumped all over the place in this entry, but you're not alone with this issue. You are not too young to get hearing aids. I've had different models throughout my life since first grade, and I'm 27 now.

Good luck with everything.

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Marvie specializes in OR.

3,633 Visitors; 143 Posts

Hi all,

This has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with.. and then finally bring to a forum so I can get some feedback. I'm 22 years old, started working on a medical unit in a hospital almost a year ago now. I really love my job - nurses are supportive, the floor is heavy, but I'm holding my own and at that point when I'm finally "catching on" and becoming more comfortable with myself and my abilities.

I've had a hearing loss for as long as I can remember. I remember being a kid and taking those tests in school and always falling a little bit short. I want to clarify something - when I say "hearing loss", I mean that in a pretty light sense. Speaking with somebody face to face is never a problem for me, something I am very fortunate for. If you met me on the street, I'd have no problem holding a conversation and you'd walk away never thinking that there's a problem at all.

The problems begin when I'm speaking with somebody who has a soft voice or is facing away from me or there's a lot of background noise. My friends and family know of it and can adjust (with of course, friendly jabs every now and then). When applying this to where I work.. the biggest trouble I have is hearing somebody call for me when I'm far from the nurses station. Also, when somebody's trying to say something while walking away (as you can imagine is quite often when people are busy)... I definitely hear myself saying "what?" or asking somebody to repeat themselves often enough throughout the night.

I can communicate well with patients for the most part.. I practice safely.. and nobody mistakes my "not answering" to me "slacking off" or being somewhere else and not doing my job. Patients normally yell loud enough for me to hear them if there's trouble and I haven't come across one that hasn't. Nonethless, this has bothered me for quite some time now..

I'm looking to see if there's any other nurse out there with a minor hearing loss... how he/she copes when the world isn't always so receptive to people who need things repeated (easy to misinterpret and think they're not listening). I've researched hearing aids... my ENT doctor says I'm too young and that communicating normally is all that matters. I dont' think I can come to terms with wearing one yet, anyway...

My questions to you - are there fields of nursing that require more face to face contact? In a smaller settings? Something more hearing-loss friendly? I used to do clinicals on a floor where nurses had pagers... my hospital doesn't have that but that worked well.

I was tentative to tell my boss of this problem, mainly because, in the jist of things, it's not a huge thing that would affect the care I provide to my patients. I also find it difficult explaining it to others because it does upset me.. and reactions differ widely. I dont' know if that's something that future employers should be more aware of.

Gosh, this is long.. and I thank anybody whose stuck around long enough to read it in its entirety. I really appreciate the time and feedback. :)

If your ENT doc thinks your 'too young' for hearing aids, I will tell you you need to find another ENT doc and go see an audiologist. I was 22 when my hearing dropped off and now I am profoundly deaf, wear 2 BTE aids and I work in the OR. Everyone has a different situation because not all hearing loss is the same. I manage quite well in the OR (ask my co-workers and docs), and even won an award recently for my accomplishments. Don't allow others to tell you what you can and can't do, where you can or can't work. Explore and discover for yourself. More power to ya.

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Dempather specializes in Emergency Room, Cardiology, Medicine.

4,693 Visitors; 182 Posts

Wow.. I can't believe what great responses I've gotten for a thread opened up last year. Thanks so much for your support!

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