Surgical Masks

Recently, Shanna shared her experience about not being able to lipread her dentist due to him wearing a mask.  Check out her blog post, Lipreading Mom Faces the Chair.

The topic came up again last night during a discussion that Minda, Shanna, Lucy, Sarah, Dennis, and I were having about dealing with doctors/dentists as deaf/hard-of-hearing patients.  We talked briefly about our experiences of going to the dentist and being unable to read their lips because well…we don’t exactly have x-ray vision.

I hate those doggone masks.  Transparent surgical masks exist, but I have yet to see them.  

Anyways, it’s funny how simple little things can remind you of something bigger.  I actually associate surgical masks with my cochlear implant surgery now (can you believe it’s been 18 months?!?).


I had an interpreter available for before and after surgery but for some reason that no one really understood why….sign language interpreters from certain agencies are apparently not allowed in or near operation rooms.  I was not aware of this until about an hour before they wheeled me in.


I was scared about not being able to know what was going on as I was being put under.  I knew the cochlear implant surgery team would all have surgical masks on.  What if I needed to understand something asap?  Would I be able to communicate that immediate second?


Well, of course they give you something before wheeling you into that room.  They say it’s to relax you.  I say it’s to prevent you from jumping off the stretcher and running down the hospital hall.


So as I was being wheeling in I was already entering that fuzzy little world.  I do remember laying down on the table and thinking…”Crap.  I’m putting my life in these people’s hands and I can’t hear them.  I don’t have a sign language interpreter.  I can’t lipread them.  I can’t communicate with them.”  I felt lonely and powerless.


Then all of the sudden the anesthesiologist pulled down his mask, made good eye contact with me, made sure he had my attention, and spoke clearly. 


Him having that simple little knowledge made me feel safe and like I could trust him.  I could have reached up and hugged him if….well….my arms hadn’t already been tied down.


It’s all about little things like this that can make the difference between an experience being positive or negative.  It may lead me to trust someone or distrust someone.  


For so many years, surgical masks used to remind me of my experiences of trying to lipread dentists (which, fyi, is impossible) with their masks on.  Now, it reminds me of one person who I interacted with for a grand total of 5 minutes in my life and the difference he made in gaining my trust and reassuring me when I needed it the most….just by being educated.


Sometimes it’s all about the simple things…..

2 thoughts on “Surgical Masks

  1. What a great anesthesiologist. I blogged recently about the invention of transparent surgical masks for the D/HH- they've come up with the prototype, but they just need a dispenser. Hope they become widely used in the future!

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