Joanne Swinbourne: Why I have trust issues. With audiologists (BSL)

Posted on August 1, 2017



My name is Joanne Swinbourne and I have trust issues.

Don’t worry, I’m not getting all deep and personal here on Limping Chicken! But I do want to come out and say that I have deep trust issues – with audiology departments!

Watch a BSL translation of this article by Helen Foulkes below:

Why is it that whenever I visit my local audiology department, my hands feel sweaty, my hackles are raised and I have a strong feeling of uncertainty?

It’s because I feel an audiology department – for a deaf person – should be a place of safety and calm – purely because the staff who work there meet deaf people every day.

So, surely they should know how to communicate with us? Surely it should be a very stress-free experience?

But is it? No, it’s the opposite!

When I visit my doctor or my dentist, I go with a sense of reality. I know that the experience will be a bit hit and miss, and I am prepared for it.

The receptionist may be a bit difficult to understand, the computer system may not be working that shows your name or maybe the doctor may be a new one with no experience of talking to a deaf person. But I adjust my expectations so that I am prepared for any eventuality.

But the audiology department? Every time I go, the overriding feeling I leave with is one of disappointment.

I hope and pray that there may be an audiologist who can sign a bit, will speak clearly (without having to be asked to), and will tap me on the shoulder when they want my attention.

But I am constantly disappointed and angry when I leave (a bit like when I go to the cinema and find the captions aren’t working!!)

I have been to the audiology clinic twice in the last week, the first time to see the consultant and the second visit to the technician to fix a broken hearing aid.

The consultant always looks wary when he sees me because he knows that I will ask him awkward questions. In short, I make him work hard to communicate clearly with me (on purpose, why should I have to do all the work!?) but also his attitude stinks.

As a result of me having Pendred Syndrome, I have progressive hearing loss. So before, I was severely deaf, and now I am profoundly deaf.

In the audiologist’s eyes, it’s like I am on the scrap heap. For someone who has lost some useful hearing that I used a lot, I do grieve a bit for that bit of loss.

Do I get any empathy from my consultant?? Do I heck!

Basically, when I enquire about updated hearing aids, I am told that a cochlear implant is the only useful option.

I then ask for a hearing test, he tells me there is no point, but when I insist I want one, he dismissively says he’ll let me have a hearing test, but it’ll be “for my intellectual curiosity only”.

I explain to him that having a CI is a huge step, a big operation but also it has a huge impact on my family and work life so it is a big step to consider. I get a shrug in return!

In contrast, a few months ago, I had a full thyroid removal. In the months leading to the operation, I had many appointments with the consultant and the surgeon.

My options were clearly explained, they booked interpreters for my appointments so I would have full access and so on. They were empathetic, patient and understanding when I asked countless questions. What a contrast to my audiologist.

The audiology technician is another story.

I asked for a hearing test, I got a big sigh.

I asked for a new mould, another big sigh.

No smiles. No speaking clearly. Talking to my back, so I can’t lipread or hear that he’s talking to me. Looking irritated when I don’t understand. Looking at his watch.

How demeaning is this?

I want to know what happens when audiologists have their training?

My GP told me that when they have their training, they have a one day workshop with a deaf adult, learning some signs. They also have to have a conversation with a deaf adult.

But for audiologists, I wonder how much contact they have with deaf people while they are training? Are they taught sign? Are they taught deaf awareness?

It feels to me that they are trained to look inside the ear only. But for a deaf person, it needs to be a holistic experience.

They need to look at the whole deaf person, their background, their feelings about their deafness and be aware of cultural differences. Not just whether a hearing aid or a CI will do the job.

So I will continue to be the “difficult” patient for my audiologists. I have had 44 years of them and the only ones that I have met who sign are the ones who work in schools with deaf children.

I have never met one who can sign in a hospital …yet.

My consultant wants to transfer me from the Leeds borough to the Bradford borough, I think he wants to get rid of me (!) but until then, I will continue to be a thorn in his side and make him work harder at his job and to become better.

Audiologists need to be so much better. Don’t they?

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