A few weeks ago, I spoke to a group of audiology doctoral students at The Graduate Center, CUNY. The purpose was to share the patient’s perspective with them, particularly as it relates to what patients would like to see when visiting their audiologists.
The group of students was intelligent, interested and highly motivated to understand the patient’s point of view. They were surprised to hear about the wide variety of experiences I have had with different audiologists throughout my hearing loss life — some good and some not so good. From our discussions, I could see that they are learning best practices in their classes and had the clear intent to put patient-centered cared into action. This is good news for all of us with hearing loss.
During my talk, I shared my hearing loss story and my best and worst audiologist visits. They were very surprised to learn that only one audiologist ever asked me about my life or what my hearing goals were before recommending a hearing device. They were encouraged that my husband accompanied me to the appointment where I selected my first hearing aid. It was a dynamic discussion, where they showed genuine interest in what the patient was thinking and feeling.
They were full of good questions, some procedural and some personal. I was happy to answer them all. Each question indicated a genuine desire to infuse the patient perspective into their frame of reference. These questions included:
- Did I prefer to fill out questionnaires ahead of time or during the appointment?
- Would I do aural rehab work online or did I prefer it to be face to face?
- Was I open to using other devices in addition to hearing aids?
- Did I want a family member to accompany me to appointments?
- How well did I hear in noise? Was that ever tested at any of my appointments?
- How did I handle dating with hearing loss? Marriage? Kids?
The conversation soon turned to difficult hearing conditions in general — restaurants, movies, theater. They offered their own anecdotes of having trouble hearing at a bar or restaurant. Some of them regularly ask restaurants to turn down the music, but others do not. I was surprised that advocacy was not more pervasive — especially, as I told them — they know better!
I left them with one final thought. As audiologists, they have incredible power to do good in two important ways.
1. Set the patient on the right hearing loss path. An audiologist is typically the first hearing loss professional anyone with hearing loss will see. She has an amazing opportunity and a serious responsibility to set the right tone for each person’s hearing loss journey. Treating the patient with respect, making it about the person and not the device, and setting realistic expectations can go a long way to keeping someone with hearing loss engaged in her treatment and her life.
2. Speak up for noise protections. Audiologists see firsthand the difficulties that come from hearing loss. They know how loud is too loud. I coaxed them to use their authority as audiologists to educate shop owners, schools, restaurant owners, etc., about safe volume levels, both in their local communities and more broadly.
I encouraged them to use their power, knowledge and expertise for good. I think they will.
Readers, do you share the patient’s perspective with your audiologist?