Going to the Hospital With a Hearing Aid or Hearing Implant
Going to the Hospital With a Hearing Aid or Hearing Implant (https://blog.medel.com/going-to-the-hospital-with-a-hearing-aid-or-hearing-implant/)
Going to the hospital isn’t always the most exciting time, we know. If you’re at the hospital with a hearing aid, or a hearing implant, here are a few tips that can make your stay as smooth as possible, also in challenging times for the healthcare system, e.g. in times of a global pandemic.
Before and just after you get to the hospital, prepare yourself for being away from home. Bring lots of spare batteries and other accessories you use, like a drying kit. You might also want to bring a back-up processor if you have one and your favorite ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices). If you think there are times when you won’t be able to change the batteries, show your nursing staff how. It could help to bring along your user manual or a Quick Guide so that they can read it even if you’re not available. On the Support Pages on the MED-EL website you can also find helpful tips and tricks as well as troubleshooting assistance for your audio processor – a great resource for you, your medical team and family and friends, if they are allowed to come with you. If your audiologist has shown you specific tips and tricks that work great for you but cannot be found in the resources already mentioned, you could use your smartphone to film a step-by-step guide on how to perform certain actions. The video can then be shown to medical staff or family and friends when necessary.
Make sure that you know where your aid or processor is at all times. When nurses are making your bed, store it or keep it on your head. At night, the best place to store it is in a bedside table, Daily Case or drying kit. Don’t keep it in a napkin or handkerchief, because it can end up with your processor being dumped in the trash bin. If you’re staying in a hospital bed for a longer time, it’s possible that you might fall asleep while still wearing your audio processor. If it falls off, it might end up where you can’t find it. Wearing something like the Sports Headband can keep your processor safe and secure even if you’re asleep.
In times of a global pandemic, for example during the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing face masks and other face coverings might be required, especially in public and professional settings like at the doctor’s or the hospital. Make sure to bring a face mask that you can wear comfortably with your hearing implant. If you are not sure which type of face covering to use, ask other CI users what they are using or purchase a few options to see which work best. If you are using a BTE audio processor like SONNET or SONNET 2, putting the mask on first could be a good strategy if you plan to remove the processor often during the day.
Hearing Loss Is Invisible, So Make It Visible
Don’t expect the hospital staff to know that you have hearing loss. Even if you use a hearing aid or implant, your hearing loss might not always be obvious. And, some staff might not know that you’ll still have hearing loss when you’re not wearing your aid or processor.
You can make sure this doesn’t happen by letting everyone know that you have a hearing loss. Ask them to not talk too quickly, and if you have problems understanding instructions or directions request that they are also written down for you.
When you register, you can also ask the staff to have a note or sticker put on the front of your medical records folder. That way it’ll be clear to anyone who handles your records that you have a hearing loss. You can also bring your own stickers, which are available at websites like Hearing Link, Hearing Loss Association of America, or Hearing Impaired.
Good Communication is Key
It’s important to understand everything that your doctors or nurses say. Don’t be afraid to let them know if you don’t understand.
Here are a few tips you can share with your nursing staff::
- Always face the person you’re communicating with
- Ask them to always have their face visible, so that you can lip read to support your hearing. When they’re talking with you, ask them not to do other things like making the bed.
- If you’re trying to communicate at night, switch on your bedside light. Some nurses might be reluctant to turn lights on because they don’t want to wake up others in the room, but let them know you need the light to communicate well.
- Turn off your TV or radio when talking, or ask your roommate to turn theirs down if the noise keeps you from understanding.
- Ask staff to speak clearly: not too fast, not too slow, and not too loud. Let them know that shouting will only make it harder for you to understand.
- If your doctor tells you something, repeat it back to make sure you understood right. If you’re not sure, ask them to write it down for you.
If everybody at the hospital is required to wear face masks, lip reading is often not possible. Make the staff aware that the lack of lip reading and visual clues through facial expressions is a challenge for you. If possible, use Assistive Listening Devices or phone apps that have dictation capabilities for captioning during important conversations with your medical team. If that is not possible, ask them to repeat important messages or write them down for you. Repeating back what doctors or nurses are saying to you can be used as an extra opportunity for clarification.
Specific Tips for Specific Procedures
Since there are a range of different procedures you might have, here are tips for a few:
If you’ll go through a medical examination, ask for a staff member to pick you up. Loudspeaker announcements can be hard to understand—even for someone with normal hearing. Don’t hesitate to let your doctors know that you’ll only be able to hear them when you’re wearing your aid or processor. If everyone in the hospital is wearing face masks, make the staff aware that communicating might be more challenging for you because of the face coverings. Share your experience and tips for improved communication with them.
MRI or CT Scans
For scans like MRI or CT, bring along any medical identification cards you have. Be clear with your team that you have a hearing loss and use a hearing aid or cochlear implant. You’ll have to remove the aid or processor during the scan. Make sure that your aid or processor is kept in a safe location, so that you can put it back on when the scan is finished.
If you have a cochlear implant, this will influence which strength of MRI you can have. Not all MRI strengths are compatible with all cochlear implants. Some cochlear implants need surgery to remove the implant’s magnet before having an MRI. The MED-EL SYNCHRONY cochlear implant series is conditionally safe at 3.0 Tesla without removing the magnet, and the CONCERTO and SONATA cochlear implants are both safe at 1.5 Tesla without removing the magnet.* If you or your medical team are looking for more information on MRIs with cochlear and other hearing implant systems, you can find all you need to know in the Important Safety Information section on our website.
When having surgery, find out if you need a general anesthetic. If you do, ask your surgical team to keep your audio processor safe. A good idea would be to keep it in a plastic case with your name and room number written on. Lots of parts in the operating theater will be made of metal, so a processor that’s just lying around might stick to one of them and be hard to find.
Remind your nursing staff that you won’t be able to hear without your processor. It should be the first thing you get after waking up.
Any more questions about going to the hospital with a hearing implant? Your local MED-EL team is there to support you and answer all your questions. Find their contact details on our website.
* MED-EL cochlear implants since 1994 are MR conditional. Recipients with a MED-EL cochlear implant may be safely MRI scanned following the conditions detailed in the instructions for use.
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