Being a nurse is a difficult career in itself, but being a deaf or hard of hearing nurse presents another set of challenges that begin long before landing a job. For DeAnna Bonney it began when she was diagnosed at 3 years old with Non-Syndromic Bilateral Sensorineural X-linked progressive hearing loss, a genetic mutation which has been passed through her family for at least five generations.
As a result, DeAnna has moderately severe to profound hearing loss, alongside her deaf father and two hard of hearing sisters. Growing up in St. Louis, MO, an area which strongly advocates cochlear implants over ASL, she grew up orally but eventually learned ASL in high school.
Despite her hearing loss, DeAnna always excelled academically. After she realized her passion and joy in caring for others, she enrolled in nursing school, where she continued to be successful with the help of a team of medical interpreters and her friends.
Outside of lectures and note-taking, she learned hands-on nursing skills from watching procedures and reading each step while practicing on mannequins.
Today, DeAnna is a registered nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Here, she has learned the importance of teamwork and communication along with the realization that she must tell everyone up front about her hearing loss to minimize frustration and confusion. While she can communicate with her patients orally as long as they are facing each other, she relies on her coworkers to get her attention when she’s needed, as well as alert her to distant sounds she may not be able to hear such as alarms on the IV pumps, ventilators, or dialysis machines. Such assistance has brought DeAnna great relief and allowed her to progress in the field.
“I have learned that the medical field is a lot more flexible with my hearing loss than I expected, which has relieved a lot of anxiety for me.”
While DeAnna currently relies fully on her hearing aids, which bring her to an almost normal hearing level, and her ThinkLabs One stethoscope, which connects to her hearing aids via Bluetooth, her hearing loss is still progressing. Though she does not need a medical interpreter now, she says she may eventually get to that point. Though she is still learning to be a hard of hearing nurse, DeAnna turns to various online resources for advice and support. One is a Facebook page called “the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss,” which has been a “life-saving support group” and taught her to be confident in the field.
“Everyone helps each other, so I am never alone. I do not feel like my hearing loss is holding me back from doing my job, and I use the opportunity to educate those around on hearing loss and the D/deaf community.