Welcome to The Hear Me Out [CC] Podcast, an audio show (with transcripts included) where we listen to stories from fascinating individuals in and around the d/Deaf community and from your host, yours truly, Ahmed Khalifa.
In episode 10, my own experience of visiting the dentist; from the process of arranging an appointment all the way to leaving the dentist after my check-up, I go through all the challenges that come along the way.
Even though I don’t have a severe/profound hearing loss (at this moment in time anyway), my own experience is challenging enough, never mind those who have extra challenges to overcome.
Listen to the podcast or read the transcripts below:
This is the Hear Me Out [CC] Podcast, a place to hear stories from the d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
Many people have a different experience when it comes to going to the dentist, and it doesn’t matter who you are.
It could be a child, it could be a toddler, it could be a baby, it could be an elderly person, it could be a middle-aged person, it could be anybody with a different form of disability, it could anybody with some kind of additional needs.
Whatever it is, everyone has their own specific experience about going to the dentist.
I do sympathise with the dentist and the dental staff, and how they work hard to accommodate as many people as possible and give them, obviously, the best dental experience.
But I thought I would share my own experience as a deaf/hard of hearing person when it comes to going to the dentist, and it’s something that we all need to do, and we can’t get away from it because we need their expertise.
Organising an Appointment…
So for me, it just goes all the way back, when I have to create that appointment, organise an appointment, and that’s always a struggle.
Most of them will say you have to phone and make an appointment that, and as you can imagine, for anybody like me, making a phone call is not exactly a pleasant experience, but what choice do we have
You just have to strain, and really, really listen hard, and say, “Excuse me?” “Excuse me?” “Excuse me?” Ask them to repeat multiple times.
I don’t understand why they still can’t make use of websites, we can’t make use of technology. We can’t make use of messaging platforms online, or on your phone, to make it easy for everyone, not just for me, but everyone.
Most of the time when I go their website, our local dentist, I go to their website and they tend to be pretty poor.
And I’m not just talking about my own, but also others that I have seen when I’ve done my research.
Of all the times I’ve gone around the country, in the UK or abroad, and I’m looking at the websites, the majority tend to be really poor, in terms of providing information and making it easy to make an appointment online.
Because they either don’t do that, or they just force you to, just say, make an arrangement over the phone and that frustrates me.
And me, with my
Because, when you use a contact form you have to trust that they will handle your information carefully, and that’s just something that I am aware of, but what about the other people who are not in the same background as me, in terms of knowing how the technical side things work?
What if they are not aware of that? What if they don’t look out for the things like, is it secure enough to send personal information using their contact form?
Because they don’t always provide email addresses either. But still, at the same time, even when you send emails or contact forms, you still hear the message saying you have to contact us by phone to arrange an appointment.
Sometimes that means I have to do it over the phone with great difficulty, sometimes that means that I have to go there in person, just so I can see them face-to-face and lipread, and just so that I can do it there.
And that’s not always a good experience for me, because why I should I have to get out of a house to do that, when you should have the basic facilities, in my opinion, in terms of online experience using the website, to make it easy.
At the end of the day, everyone wins, not just for myself, and for people in my situation, but everyone will win. Even for your receptionist, for your staff, they might find it easier and quicker to arrange an appointment that way.
I’ve seen other people who have a contact form and a booking form online, and you can do it there and then, and I think that’s brilliant, I think that does make things easier, but it’s just still, very few people who do that
That’s just even before we even arrive at the dentist and even having that problem.
At the Waiting Room…
But anyway, after that, let’s just say somehow I’ve arranged an appointment, and then you go to the dental practice, and you wait in the waiting room.
And of course, you don’t always hear the person say, “Ahmed Khalifa.” Call in the person, the next patient coming in, you don’t always hear that, and you don’t always have the kind of messaging system on the wall where you can see the next person to be called up, for example.
That’s kind of annoying.
Luckily for me it’s not as bad, because for my own local dentist, at this moment in time anyway, until I change in the future one day, the person comes to the waiting room and I can hear the person saying my name, I am next, and would go.
But that doesn’t always happen. Again, not all medical practises have these systems, where you can see on a screen the next person who is going to be called in.
You have to hear, you have to be alert all the time, but sometimes you just want to get on your phone, or read a magazine when you are in the waiting room.
Again, this is all before we even had that dental experience.
On the Dentist Chair…
But anyway, let’s just say we went in, you’re sitting in the chair, and you get started.
This is probably one of the more frustrating parts, is when the dentist, and I’m talking from a number of experiences, they tend to want to have a conversation with you, even if they are not looking at you.
They are facing the other way, you can’t lipread.
And then, of course, as soon as that mask comes up, then that’s just a big challenge for me, that just makes it even more difficult for me to understand what’s going on.
And it’s a bit of a frustrating experience for many people as well.
It’s not just for many of us, they want to have a conversation with us when they start putting their tools and whatever in our mouth, and start poking at our teeth, and start doing their job, and then they ask us a question, and I just don’t understand why they do that.
I mean, it’s like a very weird way to ask us to answer when they start poking at our teeth. But anyway, that’s another story.
The face mask is an issue, and on most occasions anyway, I depend on lipreading, and that’s a challenge when they had that face mask on.
That has caused a bit of an issue for me, for example, when, if a dentist is saying something to me, then I try to respond, or I don’t know what to say, and I’ll mumble, “Uhhh “. You know, that “I don’t know” mumbling, I don’t know what they’re saying.
But then, there are also times where the dentist is talking to the dental nurse, the dental assistant, and I’m not aware of when that’s happening, because I am trying to focus as hard as I can to hear what that dentist is saying to me.
And that person is saying something to the nurse or the assistant, and I thought he was talking to me, so then I ask, “Eh? What did you say?”
And it’s like, “Oh, no, you’re talking to the other person.” That happens so many times, and it comes to a point where, then, after that, I don’t say anything at all. I maybe don’t even attempt to have a conversation, as hard as that is, on the chair.
But then, eventually, they’ll bring it back to you, they want to ask you a question, or any problem, whatever.
And then, you are thinking, “Oh, maybe that person is speaking to the assistant,” but, oh, no, no, he’s talking to YOU.
And then you have to start focusing again, and then you have to start asking the question of, “What did you just say?” It’s just going in a circle, so it’s not always the best experience for me
After the Dental Treatment…
After the whole thing happened, after everything is done, and they clean your mouth, and you get off the chair, and then they look at the computer, whatever, start to arrange a few things.
They say things while they’re looking at the computer instead of looking at me, and again, that brings the issue of, lipreading is not possible.
But they’re trying to do their job, I get it, but it’s just very difficult for them to do their job properly when I don’t know what they’re saying to me, and whether I agree with what they’re saying or not.
So, that is also an issue as well.
Back at the Reception…
After the whole thing, you tend to, let’s say, go back to the reception. Maybe you have to make your payment, or you have to arrange another appointment, which is not too bad, but you can do it there and then instead of over the phone.
But then, you never know, what if you have to cancel that appointment sometime down the line, and you have to make an appointment again, then start the whole thing all over again.
My Advice to Dentists
So you can see the dilemma, that’s my experience. That’s my personal experience, and I’m sure those who have a more profound hearing loss, and they even have a bigger difficulty than me, I’m sure their experience is completely different, if not harder than mine, as well.
So, I’m very curious, if that is yours let me know in a comment of the show note, let me know on the website. I’m curious to know your experience as well, as well as on social media, it would be really good to hear from you.
It’s just very complex in terms of, how can they accommodate us. Well, there are a number of things, maybe the basic guidelines thing, for me anyway.
1. Being Deaf Aware
The whole thing about being aware of deaf awareness is a big topic, and there are specialist companies that provide that, but I think there are things that people need to be aware of when it comes to interacting with deaf and hard of hearing patients.
For example, if you’re expecting them to use the phone, then you’re already creating a barrier in front of them, and not really making it easy for them to come to you.
And you’re going to lose from that, your patient will lose from that, it doesn’t really benefit anyone at all.
2. Make Use of Technologies
I think using technology, the online system booking forms, or just use their website, that is just an easy way of doing that, it just eliminates the need to always have to call, or you have to travel to see that person face-to-face, the receptionist.
That’s a very annoying experience for me.
When you get there you should be aware as well, that face-to-face lipreading, it’s very, very important, and when you have your back to us, not only, that is not the best body language, but also, it’s just to make us understand you better.
The whole thing about face-to-face, and in a well-lit room you can lipread, and it’s not a noisy environment, that does make the whole experience a bit more pleasant.
3. Use Clear Masks (they do exist)
And then, even in the chair, it’s the whole thing of using the mask. I get it, that’s important, I’m not saying don’t use a mask, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I have seen those clear masks that are also available so you can lipread.
It does look a bit different, maybe it’s not something that you’re used to, but what other option do we have? I’m not really sure. I think it’s something that we need in some dental practices as well.
The same thing, as well, once that is done, we need to see you face-to-face. What do you have to say, what problems are there, because if there are problems I might miss
I might not have heard
There’s a bit of negligence in terms of what I am aware of if there is an issue with my teeth, for example, in this situation, and that doesn’t help anyone at all.
So it’s just all these little basic things, and I’m sure those who have a more profound hearing loss will probably require some kind of interpreter.
And maybe that is a case of asking, “Do you need any additional assistance?” “Do you need specific help with certain things?” Well, open that to the question, open that to the booking form, have that option of, “Do you need additional assistance?”
Then maybe that should be there as well because that’s not something that I need, I don’t need a BSL interpreter at this moment in time anyway, but other people might.
So you just never know, from their experience, what do they need, and you just have to ask that. You have to just allow that question to be asked, allow that option to happen.
These are just the little things, but I think one day I am going to write about what could dentists do to make an experience a more pleasant one for anyone who is d/Deaf and hard of hearing.
Because for me, it hasn’t always been a pleasant experience, and I know that people who are in a more difficult situation, in a more challenging situation than I am.
I can’t imagine what they have to go through, and I’d love to know from your experience what you have to go through if that is something that you go through when you go to the dentist.
Let Me Know Your Thoughts
I hope that makes sense, let me know if you have any questions. If you are a dentist and you are listening to this let me know if you have any solutions or you have been providing a solution.
I’m curious to know, I would love to hear from you. I’ll leave you the details if you want to contact me, in the show notes
In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you have I would really, really appreciate it if you can leave a review on iTunes, of what you think about this episode and the whole podcast in general
I hope to speak to and hear from you soon as well.
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