Meandering Through The Hearing World

Vaccines, Masks and Hearing Loss

My husband and I cheered when our governor announced the rollout of vaccines in Florida in early January. Healthcare workers and anyone 65 or older could schedule an appointment to receive their first dose of vaccine. However, these appointments could only be made by telephone, which posed a problem for me and anyone else who has hearing loss.  


When time slots for scheduling appointments became available, I called a published reservation line. There were many others doing the same and my husband and I kept getting busy signals. As I dialed and redialed, I prayed that the Bluetooth connection between my hearing aids and iPhone would hold. We did not immediately succeed in getting those first few appointments. However, our continual efforts paid off. A few weeks later, my husband got through to an operator and he was able to set up an appointment for both of us. 


On the day that we were scheduled to get the vaccine, my husband and I drove to the vaccination center, giddy as young children on Christmas morning. We didn’t know what to expect when we emerged from our car, but there were signs, pointing us to the center’s entrance. We noticing signs asking everyone to wear masks. As we moved along, volunteers and staff from the Florida Department of Health pointed us in the right direction. There was a check-in to record one’s arrival, and another stop to show identification. The person working at the third stop made sure we had the proper paperwork filled out. At each check-in point, I had a difficult time hearing the directions relayed to us with breathless speed. I felt fortunate to have my husband at my side. Even my mighty mini mic would not have survived the onslaught of those fast-paced words.


When we finally entered the tent where our shots would be administered, things fell apart for me. There was a great deal of background noise, creating a bad hearing environment. My husband and I were separated. I was sent to a stall where a woman was administering vaccine.  I could not hear a word she said and told her I would need my husband’s help. He had just finished receiving his injection, so she motioned him over so that he could relay what she wanted me to know.


We got through the process. I’m happy to report that our reactions to the first dose of vaccine were mild: a sore arm, a mild headache, and a bit of nausea, all symptoms came and went quickly. We were told we would receive a phone call to schedule our second injections.


One week before we were scheduled to have our second shot, my husband received a text message saying he would receive a phone call from the Florida Department of Health Scheduling Center. When the call came, he was told that he could not schedule my appointment even though he explained to the scheduler that I had hearing loss. He was told I would receive a phone call and that I would have to schedule my own appointment.  


I missed two calls before an operator got through to me. Like many with hearing loss, I need to have my hearing aids paired to my phone, and I need to be within two feet of my phone to hear it ring.  After missing the first two calls, I became frustrated and tried to find out if I could schedule an appointment through email. I was told that wasn’t possible. 


My husband being who is, said he would help me. He sat guard over my phone and when it rang, he handed it to me and that’s how I was able to schedule my appointment. I wrote a note to our county health department, explaining the difficulties those of us suffering from hearing have when using our phones. To date, I have not received a reply. However, I recently heard that our county is switching over to online appointments, which should help people with hearing loss.


When we arrived at the vaccine center for our second vaccination , my husband vowed to stay close by me, and he did. Through each step of the way, he told people of my hearing loss and they seemed to understand. I’m happy to report that the second experience of getting the vaccine went better than the first. 


It is not easy for those of us to meander through the bureaucracy of vaccine appointments. In spite of hearing loss issues, I hope all who are eligible for the vaccine will consider receiving it. And I further hope that your vaccine hearing experience is a good one.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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