Friday, March 5, 2010

Hearing Loss in the Media

Whenever deafness and/or CI's are portrayed in TV shows, it's usually with much fanfare (and oftentimes debate) from the hearing loss community. I was quite surprised this evening, while watching my favorite shows, that they had a short story line about deafness.

I LOVE Grey's Anatomy, which shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you. ;) I'm going to give my best summary I can possibly give with the knowledge that many of you have not watched the show before:

Background info: Dr. Sloan (AKA, Dr. McSteamy) is a plastic surgeon, at Seattle Grace-Mercy West hospital. He's upset that his ex-girlfriend (Dr. Lexie Grey) went and made out with Dr. Karev right after they broke up, and while he was with his single but pregnant daughter, who was in the hospital facing complications with her unborn baby. Soon afterwards his daughter fled, leaving an emotionally-invested Sloan devastated. Still bitter and alone, Sloan is taking out his anger by making out with every woman (drug reps, nurses, etc.) who will let him.

A woman who appears to be in her 40's comes into the hospital with her elderly mother, who has just been in a car accident. As the mother is being examined, we see and hear the mother and daughter shouting at each other. We find out that the mother, who lives with her  daughter, "stole" her daughter's car and went out for a ride, even though she wasn't in fit condition to do so. One of the doctors interrupts the conversation, asking if it's necessary for them to scream everything.
The exasperated daughter replies, "Yes, actually. My mother is almost completely deaf and refuses to get a hearing aid or learn sign language, so we scream"
They decide to take the mother for a CT scan of her head, and I figured that was the end of the deafness plotline. However, after the scans of the mom's head comes in, they call Dr. Sloan to come take a look. After looking at the scan for a mere second, he immediately proclaims, "She's deaf." The other doctors ask how he knows this, seeing as he's never even met the patient.

Sloan explains, "She has otosclerosis. (points to inner ear area on the scan). I can make her hear again by repairing it. I'm just that amazing of a doctor."
They tell the daughter and mother, who are both elated at the chance to have their lives back, as the mother has apparently become very dependent on her daughter to "interpret" everything. After surgery is finished on the mother's knee, Sloan immediately goes in and begins working on her ears.

We then see the mother sleeping, having just finished the surgery. The daughter is sitting at her bedside, talking/flirting with Sloan. She tells Sloan how excited she is that she will finally be able to have her life back, and that she's miserable living with and taking care of her mother. Her mother suddenly awakens and says.
"What are you talking about? You were divorced and alone, and you needed ME! I never needed you for anything, I was the one taking care of you!"
Rather than getting angry, the daughter, in a super-cheesy-but-sweet-way, shouts "Mom! You heard that!"

They excitedly realize that, indeed, the surgery has restored her hearing. We never see the mother and daughter again, but later on in the episode, Sloan mentions to another doctor that he slept with his patient's daughter.  I don't think we'll be seeing the mother and daughter again, since most cases in Grey's Anatomy only last for one episode.

I liked it. Since there weren't CI's involved, that eliminated many of the myths and controversies that usually get into shows that try to do a story about deafness. It was also nice to finally see a deaf person who wasn't your stereotypical deaf person: she was late deafened, could speak, and didn't know ASL. It seems the majority of shows that have a character with deafness tend to make them know sign language. I like that it showed the communication difficulties that come along with deafness, and I felt everything was portrayed well. I couldn't find anything that offended me the slightest, so that was good! If you'd like to see the episode online (complete with closed captions- thank you ABC!!) click here.

I also realize that I've started two completely different series of blog posts that I haven't finished. I probably should stop doing that, because I start losing interest on that topic and begin to write about something else. Rest assured, the posts are coming!

(How do you guys like this? We had to create a monogram that reflected us using photoshop in my desktop publishing class. I like how it came out and thought it'd be a good signature for each post :) )


  1. This is a little off-topic, but would you mind changing your blog layout slightly as it's hard to read the text against this background with polka-dots? Thanks!

  2. I love the monogram. My name Sarah means princess so all thing princess appeal to me!

    That is interesting to see an atypical deaf storyline in the media. I'm not familiar with otosclerosis. Maybe there are people who could be helped by that surgery if only they were aware of it. It would have been cool to have a "get your hearing checked" PSA announcement as an ad.

  3. Rachel- Thanks for letting me know. I'd been experimenting and wasn't sure if it was difficult to read. I'm so glad you told me, because I'm sure others were having the same problem. I hope the new background is better.

    Sarah- Thanks :) I only know about otosclerosis becaue I read a book by a cochlear implantee who had it. It sounded like people who have otosclerosis go through many surgeries, but they're not always succesful or they stop being succesful, but they can eventually be helped with CI's. I agree, a little public service announcement would've been nice. I guess we can only expect so much from Hollywood..


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