Recently I had a check-up at the dentist. Dentists’ surgeries are not hearing-loss-friendly environments. The main problem is the dentist’s mask. Lip reading? Impossible. Then there are all those hygienic hard surfaces, perfect for creating a noisy, echoing environment and disastrous, therefore, for making sense of speech. Also presenting a challenge are the plastic goggles they give you when water-spray equipment is being used in your mouth. Now you can’t see to lip read even when lips are visible, especially if you are short-sighted like me. Presumably ALL patients, not just deaf ones, are told to wave their hand about if they want the dentist or hygienist to stop at any point, but it’s sometimes useful for me if I’m being asked to do something (keep my tongue still??) but I don’t know what. Mainly, I try to just lie there and breathe, pretending that I am anywhere else but where I am.
Actually, I have a lovely dentist. He takes his mask off whenever he has something to communicate. He looks at me. He takes his time to explain things. He doesn’t mind repeating himself and, the other day, twice asked his support staff to be quiet when I was struggling to hear him. There were two dental nurses in the room and, although I couldn’t make sense of the conversation, it seemed like one was being trained – certainly there was a lot of murmured talk behind me, sufficient to cause me problems.
It was odd, though, that in the long questionnaire I was given before the appointment (a new one, the receptionist said, she couldn’t just ask me to check my existing records) there was no mention of hearing loss. For excellent reasons there were many questions about every facet of my medical history. There were questions about allergies, what medicines I was taking and whether I had ever had a problematic reaction to an anaesthetic. They asked for details of my next-of-kin (and I was only having a check-up). But nothing about hearing loss. Being a persistent so-and-so I wrote DEAF in capital letters under “other” as well as “please use text or e mail to communicate – I’m deaf” in the section on contact details. I’ve been seeing the same dentist for more than a decade, so he knows me well, but the other staff come and go, and what about patients less willing to be upfront and a little demanding? How would staff know that THEY couldn’t hear?
Visiting the optician is easier. True, you can’t read lips whilst wearing the contraption that allows the optician to fiddle around with possible lens strengths but I’m so used to the procedure I can guess what’s coming next. Option 1 is clearer than Option 2. The little red line is below the dot in the middle. Now it’s to the left of it. And so on. (Incidentally, although it’s nothing to do with deafness, the test I find most stressful is the peripheral vision one where you have to call out the number of little lights you can see. The first time they did it I thought the machine was having a fit, the lights were changing so fast. FOUR. TWO. TWO. FOUR. ONE. I was pronounced to have passed with flying colours but my heart was racing).
(An aside. The thing I find most amazing about visiting the optician is that the end of the process they give you a pair of glasses and you can see, perfectly. If only hearing aids were like that).
What else has been going on in morethanabitdeaf-land? We’ve been having building works done at home. Carpets are up, curtains are down, furniture is piled in just some of the rooms – the house has become a soft-furnishings-free-zone so, of course, like at the dentist, sound echoes disastrously. Communication with the builders has been well-nigh impossible for me, because of this, so yet another job for the long-suffering Nigel. If he wasn’t around, well, it got interesting. One day one of the men appeared in the kitchen with a new door knob wanting to know….what???? I couldn’t make any sense of it. Three attempts later I’m resorting to saying that he’s going to have to write it down. (I HATE that – it’s practical, but I’ll try anything else first). “No”, he says, “hang on”, and disappears, reappearing a few minutes later with all the components of the door knob so he can mime what he wants to know. People are very inventive. It worked very well.
Another day, a new workman appeared and I launched into my standard speech about being deaf, lip reading, needing to see his face et cetera et cetera. “OK”, he said, “I’ll do my best. But there might be a problem because I’m missing my front teeth at the moment.” And so he was, but we just about managed.
Finally, on the anecdotes of deaf-dom, there is the story of the new kitchen table. Nigel and I are very happy with it. Modern. Sleek. Stylish. But we discovered an unexpected downside in that a beautifully engineered groove on the table surface is proving a magnet for crumbs. I tried poking them out with the corner of a tea towel. Nigel discovered that blowing a great lungful of air at them sent them flying (but it’s probably not very hygienic). Then, eureka, out came the puffer from the hearing aid kit; the one you use for blowing condensation out of the tubing of your hearing aids or, some people tell me, wax out of the ear mould – yuk.
Here’s a picture for all readers who can hear and haven’t the foggiest what I’m on about. It works perfectly for crumb extraction. Who would have thought?
Just another every day story of deaf folk.