During Doctor Visits….

NotepadThat second set of ears belongs to Sharon Wolozin, who takes notes the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – and then reads some of the main points aloud to confirm them with the doctor. If the patient forgets a question she told Wolozin she planned to ask, Wolozin will remind her. But she is not an advocate and has no medical training.

“We don’t get between the doctor and the patient,” said Wolozin. Her role is only to create an accurate record of what happened at the appointment that she gives to Couturier, who can then share it with her children or others.

SOURCE: Note-takers volunteer to help the elderly during doctor visits | Updates | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

One of the many times I thank God for a hearing wife is when I have a doctor’s appointment. To say it very bluntly at the start of this post, I haven’t come across many doctors who have the patience or understanding to effectively communicate with someone who is deaf. So, my wife goes to 95% of my doctor’s visits with me to tell me everything the doctor says. The other 5% are what this post is about.

On the occasions where I must go to a doctor on my own I struggle to get the doctor to understand that I am not a hearing person.  If I ask him to write things down what comes out is usually just a few words. Something like “you need surgery”. Almost never a reason given until I emphatically press it. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that doctors are without empathy for their patients. What I am saying is that they just don’t seem to have an understanding of it from the patient’s end, especially a deaf patient.

I have been going to the same primary care physician for almost fourteen years now and when I go without my wife the same thing used to occur.  Like most doctors he only very reluctantly wrote limited things down for me to read. Fortunately we finally worked out a method of communications. Jessie, who is one of the more friendly nurses in the office, now is in the room taking thorough notes for me to read.  When the doctor is talking too fast she slows him down so she can get it just right. Problem solved, that is at least for one of my many doctors.

Doctors and other medical personnel, like many others who deal with the general public, just don’t have the training to be sensitive to  a hearing impaired persons needs. Some do much better than most.  When someone gets obviously upset because I am apparently not following an order to lay this way or that. I now have a speech worked out. I tell them.

What if you were were in a hospital in Germany where no one spoke English. Would you be able to understand their instructions? If not you can imagine what I am going through right now.

This often times get them to finally realize that just repeating the same thing again doesn’t do any good.

4 thoughts on “During Doctor Visits….

  1. You are blessed to have a wife, and a doctor with a nurse, who will write things for you.

    Have you seen Dragonwriter. It takes the spoken word and writes it for the person. I wonder if that can be applied in your case? I wonder, if the doctor would use it, then you could see exactly what s/he has to say?

    I used it for a blind student and a deaf student while teaching. It was clumsy- but that was almost five years ago. It could be a phone ap by now.


    1. Hello Janette. Yes I am blessed.

      I was involved in the development of speech recognitions in the 1980s. It was actually invented by the company I worked for. I haven’t looked into it recently either. The last time I tried. The speaker independent algorithms were still not very accurate. Most of the most reliable ones today are speaker trained. That is the person using the app must spend upwards of and hour saying various words into the program. I can’t imagine my, or any other doctor, spending that amount of time. But, like you say it has been a while since I looked into them. Maybe I should take a re-look. Thanks for the suggestion.


  2. RJ, since getting an iPhone, I have been amazed at the difference in voice recognition over the prior system on my old Android phone. That prior system could not handle my Texas drawl, but Apple’s Siri got it down right away. Perhaps some advances have been made.

    I have a deaf granddaughter–with cochlear implants, but who also reads lips, especially when the processors come off while she’s bathing or swimming– and a neighbor who describes herself as hard of hearing but who cannot hear a smoke detector malfunctioning just above her head and who also reads lips. In the past, when my granddaughter still communicated via sign language, I have taken classes in ASL and SEE, the form of sign language my granddaughter’s school originally used. Still, although I obviously know better, I find myself forgetting and turning away while speaking to these two people or talking with my fingers over my lips, a bad habit of mine, even when I obviously care about these people and am motivated to communicate with them. I often think what a frustrating experience it must be for the deaf to communicate with those who do not sign.


    1. Hi Linda. I looked into cochlear implants but due to my type of deafness they are not an option. You and Janette have convinced me to look into speech recognition once again. Thanks.

      It sounds like you are very experienced in the area of hearing impairments. My wife and I sign in English. We never got ASL down to any level. Just to conceptual for my mind I guess. Lip reading is more art than science. When there is any level of hearing left it is easier but when I lost it all it became very difficult. Especially when I can predict what might be said.

      I went deaf about twenty-five years ago so I lived and continue to live in the hearing world. Yes, it is frustrating on several levels. I occasionally post about it here. If you are interested in some of those posts just click on the “About Life” button and the “Coping in the hearing world.

      Thanks for joining the conservations here. It is nice to see that I have some readers who might understand my handicap.


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