* * Anonymous Doc: What? I can't hear you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What? I can't hear you.

For a few days now, Patient, in the hospital for something relatively complicated, and entirely unrelated to her ears, has been complaining of trouble hearing. Apparently reports a history of ear wax. So it's probably ear wax. Patient wants us to do something about it. I call for an ENT consult. The ENT laughs at me. That's not an inpatient issue. She can deal with it when she's discharged. The patient, not too happy to hear that. So, today, I go into her room.

She's holding up a sign.

It says: "I can't hear anything."

"And that also means you can't talk??"

She scribbles on her paper: "What? I can't hear you."

I indulge, and write back: "Are you able to talk."

She looks at it for a few moments. Then, very loud, and slow:

"Oh. I guess I can talk."

"You can talk lower."


"You can talk lower."


I write on her paper: "Talk lower."

"Oh, am I talking loud? I can't hear myself."

I write on her paper: "Yes. You can't hear anything?"


"So I guess you didn't hear when I said we were discharging you."

"I'm going home?"


"I mean... I was lip-reading."

"You were not."

"Why can't you just clean out my ears?"

"That's not a hospital procedure. We don't even have equipment to do that here."

"You should buy some."

"You should stop pretending you can't hear anything."

"I thought it would make you help me."

"It won't."


  1. Hello there!

    I am a second year stud.med. from Denmark, and have just recently discovered your blog. I have now read it all the way through from the beginning - and I love it. You make my day, and my studying the anatomy and physiology of the heart a whole lot more enthusiastic. Our system is a lot different from the USA, however many of the doctor to patient issues will be the same. So thank you, for spending your time writing this, letting me (and others) indulge, and for doing the best you can. Keep it up and good luck!

  2. LOL, thanks for brightening my morning. Great story.

  3. Jesus christ, why would anyone WANT to communicate that way? I am deaf, truly deaf, not fake earwax deaf, and when I'm in the hospital and I don't have an interpreter around that's how I communicate. It's inefficient, frustrating, information gets lost, and it just sucks and adds to my hospital stay misery.