I’m sure there’s many who dread a trip to the dentist. But for me the experience is horrific, more so because of my deafness and for the fact of my dentist having a foreign accent.
It’s a family practice I’ve been visiting for the last seven years, I’m not sure if they are Polish or Romanian; I know I should know this but I don’t because I miss so much speech.
As lovely and friendly as all the staff are, I can only just understand what the receptionist is saying, and I’ve got no chance of hearing my dentist who talks faster than Usain Bolt.
I sit and wait in the colourful waiting room to be collected by the nurse. It is always difficult for me to hear my name being called so I always position myself as close to an entrance as possible.
The nurse comes down the stairs and looks at me; I don’t hear what she’s saying but I guess it must be my name. I follow her upstairs in to the bright, white room with its super-clean smell.
I now feel like my insides will drop out, and my nerves are beginning to frazzle; even though I’ve been here many times before.
I swallow hard and say “Hi, I don’t know if you remember me but I’m deaf” I know he remembers me, I can tell as he makes eye contact; he mumbles something and kind of smiles.
Today I’ve also got my two boys with me, ages four and six who still think going to the dentist is fun. They are both being noisy and playful; this can make hearing more difficult. Ok, I think, concentrate… It’s only a check-up; be brave.
“I’ll go first, you two go and sit over there,” I tell the boys and plonk myself nervously on the cream leather reclining chair and wait.
The nurse says something and I see she is holding some yellow plastic goggles out. I take them and put them on, trying to bring a reassuring smile to my face for the boys.
The dentist checks all my teeth and gums by prodding them. When he’s finished doing his examination, he looks at me and explains what he needs to do, but I’m unable to understand him and tell him. He takes off his mask and I hear the words ‘cracked filling’ and something about ‘having to clean around it today.’
“Ok, go ahead” I say, thinking it won’t hurt. So, he and the nurse get to work on the tooth – even simple prodding sends electric jolting pains through my nerves; it must be because I have sensitive teeth. I’m trying to act normal in front of the boys but I know I’m clenching my hands tightly in my lap and leaning back so fiercely it’s a wonder I’ve not disappeared into the chair.
Finally, the cleaning is over and it’s the boys turn next. I’m hoping I’ve not given them the same fear I have of going to the dentist, but they both seem fine and are soon out of the chair.
We go downstairs and I book my appointment for a new filling for in ten days’ time, then we leave and I drive home. I feel anxious on the way home worrying about going back for the filling, but mainly I’m frustrated with not being able to hear my dentist; it’s time for me to do something about it.
I visit another dentist nearer to home to speak to the receptionist and nurse about my hearing difficulties with my current dentist and they assure me that the dentist there has a loud clear speaking voice. I book in for a check-up to meet him in two weeks’ time and cancel my other appointment.
The check-up went well with my new dentist and I could hear him because he stood close, took off his mask and most of all he spoke clearly. Unfortunately, I still need that filling correcting, and it’s booked in for next week.
I don’t think I’ll ever lose my fear of going to the dentist but I feel happier knowing I’ll be able to understand most of what he’s saying to me.
Sonya Hunt is a deaf Healthcare Assistant working part-time and is a mother of two young boys. Her deafness wasn’t discovered until in her early 20’s and has continued to deteriorate to the point of hearing nothing without her hearing aids. She has recently started writing short stories and is now on a creative writing distance learning course to improve on her writing.
Photo credit: Herry Lawford via Flickr Creative Commons.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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