Hearing Aid Fairy to the Rescue

Peggy Troller has been a nurse for 34 years – and she likes to make work fun.

“I would say I am the silly one on the unit. I am always for keeping things lively,” said Troller.

She has been at UW Health for four years working in the Transitional Care program. Although Troller may have a fun-loving attitude, she knows how to get down to business. She has created a program that is important to patients and quite personal to her.

Troller has been wearing hearing aids for 22 years.

“I had horrible ear infections as a child. Countless surgeries. My ear drums were basically shot by the time I was 9 years old,” said Troller. “I needed technology to catch up to me. When I was 35, I got hearing aids. I know what it is like to be hard of hearing and that helpless feeling.”

Transitional Care specializes in patients who are 60 years and older. Their job is to make sure patients have what they need to go home and not need to come back to the hospital. In short, the unit helps patients transition home successfully.

Four years ago, she realized there was a gap in resources for those who were hard of hearing. There was also a gap in understanding the communication needed for patients with hearing aids. She wanted to become an advocate and put a plan in place.

So she started a program where she would have extra batteries or supplies on hand to clean hearing aids for those in need.

“Often times when you go to the hospital, it’s in a rush or not expected. So you don’t always have extra hearing aid batteries with you. And the saying goes, ‘your hearing aid knows when you leave with no extra batteries because that is when they die,'” said Troller.

She also understands how hearing is critical in the medical process.

“I know what it is like,” she said. “If your hearing aid goes out and you aren’t able to hear, it can be scary. People don’t look directly at you and you can’t hear what they are saying. You end up not talking because you are afraid of how loud you will speak. It is a huge barrier when you are in a hospital setting.”

So, if someone’s hearing aid goes out or he or she needs help, she is there on the unit.

When the program started, Troller needed a way to get attention. So, of course, her fun- loving personality took over.

A crown, wings, and a wand make up the “Hearing Aid Fairy” costume for Troller.

“I actually just had some of the costume around in my office,” she said. “I try to stand out so people know we offer help and it makes people laugh.”

She would put on the costume when asking patients if they needed a change of battery or when she walked to different units. Troller stood out and got her message across.

Troller doesn’t wear the costume as much these days because the program is established, but she still puts it on from time to time. She also has received some grant money to buy the batteries. The program has been a success and she also wants to raise awareness.

“I am an advocate for the patient. That is why I went into nursing. I wanted to help people. It’s important for providers and medical professionals to understand how to communicate with someone who is hard of hearing,” she said.

“They shouldn’t shout in their ear or talk to the back of their head. They need to have a face-to-face dialogue. Also, it’s OK to ask if their hearing aids need new batteries or cleaning. That can make all the difference.”

Troller plans to continue the program and her fun approach are all part of an important message.

“It can be frustrating and uncomfortable if your hearing aid is not working,” she says. “So I try my best to make the patient experience as good as possible.”