Like so many others, I work in a job that is focused primarily on customer service. I am the voice on the phone that begins the vast majority of my patients experiences with our practice. A very large part of my job is listening carefully to what my patients tell me so that I can figure out the best course of action for their concerns.
I am deaf. My hearing loss is sensorineural and permanent. I wear hearing aids and read lips – for the most part these things ‘fill in the gaps’ to a degree that most people are unaware. However, certain areas that I work in are noisier than others and background noise is a huge obstacle for me. I don’t mind asking people to repeat themselves and sometimes I will state that I am hard of hearing (not my preferred terminology) for context.
The other day I checked out a patient whose chart notes indicated that she was deaf. She had another person with her, presumably to translate. I leaned around my monitor to give my patient the best view of my face and asked my first question – verifying her insurance. She looked to her translator, who repeated the question. As I asked the next one, my patient realized that I was not going to speak directly to her translator.
The translator can hear me perfectly fine when I’m looking at and speaking to my patient.
By the end of question two we didn’t need the translator.
I’ll admit that it was personally significant – a bit of a victory for me, really. I felt that by staying connected to my patient I was able to provide her with the best service. I treated her equally and did not assume any limitation. Naturally if she had indicated to me that she preferred that I speak to her translator I would have done so.
It was such a positive experience for me! It was even a nice bonus when her translator complimented me on how it had gone.