Top Nurse: Peggy Troller works her magic as the hearing aid fairy

Troller was awarded the innovation award
Top Nurse: Peggy Troller works her magic as the hearing aid fairy
Ruthie Hauge

Imagine lying in a hospital bed feeling ill and frightened. New faces consistently rotate in and out of your room. Then, on top of everything else, your hearing aid batteries die. The doctors’ and nurses’ lips are moving, but nothing is audible.

Cue Peggy Troller, a transitional care nurse at University Hospital in Madison who doubles as the hospital’s “hearing aid fairy.”

Troller acquired the nickname after helping to determine whether one of the hospital’s patients was suffering from delirium or simply couldn’t hear. Troller, 58, who got her first hearing aid at 35 and her second in her 50s, had spare batteries that were the same size as the ones the patient needed.

Troller says she realized how many patients deal with this and wanted to create a streamlined process to give patients new batteries. She submitted a grant, acquired four types of batteries and was ready to give them out. But given the hospital’s size with 505 beds, awareness of the program was slow to spread. This spurred Troller to get creative.

“If you want to get attention, walk around a hospital in a crown and wings,” Troller says.

She handed out flyers and delivered hearing aids in a fairy costume to get the word out. Now, Troller says many know her solely as the hearing aid fairy, but she doesn’t wear the costume as often.

“Even though I do a lot of things that are fun at heart, I’m deadly serious about my job,” Troller says.

Troller, who has been a nurse for 35 years, has worked at UW Health for the past five years. As a transitional care nurse, she checks in with recently discharged patients and offers follow-up medical care by phone.

Troller cleans hearing aids and gives out batteries as the hearing aid fairy, but her main goal is to educate.

“What I’m really trying to do is to teach people how to communicate with [people with] hearing loss, which almost everyone does incorrectly, including in the medical world,” Troller says.

The worst way to communicate is speaking directly into someone’s ear. Troller says shouting into a hearing aid can be extremely painful for that person and doesn’t improve comprehension.

Troller says people with hearing loss need to see faces and read facial expressions or lips.

Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. This number is expected to rise to more than 900 million people by 2050.

Troller was selected out of 2,000 applicants to present her work on hearing loss in a virtual oral presentation at the 2018 American Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet Conference, the biggest yearly nursing conference in the United States highlighting nursing excellence.

With more people getting to know her work, Troller now gets paged almost everyday to help as the hearing aid fairy