Disruptive CGM Sounds


Beep! Buzz, buzz. Beep!

No, this sequence of sounds is not describing a car alarm or a cell phone going off. Rather, this is what my CGM does whenever I have a low alert, and it’s extraordinarily disruptive – especially when I am in class.

I use a Dexcom Seven Plus CGM, which is an older model compared to the sleeker, prettier, and backlit ones that I know is used by other people with diabetes. Before I continue, I must say that I feel very lucky to have a CGM in the first place. I was first introduced to it about four years ago during a one-week trial period that my endocrinologist coordinated. I was amazed by the technology and appreciated the consistent knowledge it gave me concerning my blood sugar. A year later, just as I was starting college, I got my very own CGM. While I still love it, I have realized that sometimes it is more of a nuisance than anything else.

Dexcome 7 - Vibe and Beep Disable

For instance, I was scared away from yoga during my freshman year when my CGM began going off in the middle of a class. I was mortified. One moment I was in downward dog, the next I was scrambling to silence my CGM. I remember turning bright red as I saw the other people in class looking all around the room, trying to figure out where that annoying beeping and buzzing was coming from. I was further humiliated when the yoga instructor acknowledged the “disturbance” and how everyone in the class ought to try to focus and forget the rude interruption. Shamefully, I wolfed down four glucose tablets to fix my low and laid in child’s pose (a very fitting position) for a few minutes to collect myself. Once the class was over, I considered explaining to the yoga instructor what had happened, that I had a medical issue and couldn’t control when my device would go off. Instead, I practically ran out of the room and didn’t return to yoga until recently.

Before you tell me that my CGM can be silenced by adjusting a few settings, let me assure you that I discovered that a long time ago and disabled high and low alerts. However, there is no way to silence my CGM senses that my blood sugar is 50 mg/dL or lower. I am grateful for this in the middle of the night, when the combination of loud beeping and vibrating successfully wakes me up from a deep sleep so I can correct the low. But what about when I am in social settings, like in a classroom? Fortunately, I’ve never dealt with the horrifying situation of my CGM going off in the middle of a lecture hall. But it’s not fair that I have to check my CGM every 15 minutes or so just to make sure I’m staying on track and not hovering to a low blood sugar. It distracts me from taking notes, and I am always worried that my professor will see me checking the CGM and assume it’s a cell phone. I have one professor who is particularly strict about electronic devices, so I am just waiting for the day when she scolds me in front of 100+ people.

As I reflect on all this, today is the day I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment in trying to be proactive with my diabetes management. So what if I get called out on glancing down at my CGM? If I continue to do it, the worst that could happen is that I have to have a conversation with the professor or instructor after class that will probably embarrass them more than me. And if I don’t continue to do it, there’s the potential that I could put myself at risk of having a really bad low that I can’t fix immediately because I’m too worried about what other people are thinking of my beeping and buzzing CGM. It sucks that my CGM isn’t always conducive to my learning, but the combination of adapting to it and feeling no shame regardless of what happens will make it an obstacle that is easier to overcome as a person with diabetes.

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9 years ago

if you’re having more than one hypoglycemic issue per month, you would indeed be better off telling your instructors/professors about your being a type-1 diabetic. especially since stress is something you should avoid, if possible…it will be one less thing for you to have to worry about. i mean, don’t you have enough on your plate without this on top of it? i’ve been off the pump since my last one died at 2 am last Easter and i’m only today going to be able to order a new one, thanks to my mother and the ACA. CGM is actually… Read more »

Barbara Bubar
Barbara Bubar
9 years ago

Molly, as someone who is MUCH older than you are, I still have trouble with taking care of ME in any kind of social setting—often something that you can’t explain ahead of time but need to take care of immediately.  I think in the case of professors it “might” be a good idea to go ahead and be brave and talk with them about your CGM—who knows, they might even be amazingly respectful and fascinated!! There is no easy way around any of this but let’s face it, you never, ever, can guarantee what your blood sugar is going to… Read more »

liza bennett
liza bennett
9 years ago

I have been a teacher and my partner is a university prof for the last 30 years. I can totally understand if you do not want to tell your prof your private info, but just wanted to note that odds are very very good they would be happy to get an email from you about your need to check your equipment. Most profs are not out to get you. 

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