Waiting rooms – the scourge of the hard of hearing


I hate waiting rooms, they make me nervous. Doctor surgeries, opticians, dentists, business foyers, hospital waiting rooms – they’re all the same: large rooms full of people with lots of potential for embarrassing hearing mistakes.

Waiting rooms are either incredibly noisy, full of chatter, kids playing and parents shouting; or they are deathly silent with no-one uttering a word. I’m not sure which is better.

When it’s really noisy I have basically no chance of hearing when I’m called for whatever appointment I’m waiting for. But then at least I have an excuse, “Sorry, so noisy in here, couldn’t hear you“.

When it’s quiet it’s probably worse as everyone is bored and is watching everyone else as they have nothing better to do. Plus, the caller doesn’t call so loud because there isn’t so much noise to shout over. In the past, many years ago, someone called out a name (I had no idea if it was mine) and I waited for about ten seconds and didn’t see anyone else moving, so I got up. That could’ve gone really, really wrong.

It’s usually while I’m sat in waiting rooms that I’m reminded how much I don’t hear. I always try and sit as close to where the caller is going to be as possible and even then I still sometimes don’t manage to pick up the name being called and yet someone from the other side of the room – waaaaay over there – gets up for their appointment. Wow, my hearing is bad.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just tell someone about my hearing loss? I usually do. But even then the caller might not realise how much louder they need to go, or they can’t be bothered, or they forget. I’m always on edge.

I went to an NHS Audiology department some years ago and was pretty shocked to find that even though they had a huge waiting room they were calling people for appointments by shouting at them from the corner of the room. I mean… c’mon.

Another thing I hate about being in waiting rooms is when my appointment time has passed and I start wondering if I’ve actually been called and I didn’t hear. Are they just running late or should I go and see if I was called?

It would be great if waiting rooms could have a screen up and print the name of the person being called. Or maybe send a text message to my phone. Anything to make the experience a bit less stressful really.