5 Things a Person With Hearing Loss Wants From An Audiologist

I’ll never forget my first hearing test. I was in my mid-20s, in graduate school and terrified. My father had hearing loss, as did his mother, so the fact that I was getting a hearing test so early in life was not surprising. It was traumatic nonetheless.

My father felt ashamed of his hearing loss. He went out of his way to hide it by isolating himself from friends, family and co-workers. I remember parties where he would sit alone in the corner, watching and waiting for someone to approach him. At the time, I thought he was just shy. Now I experience hearing loss, too, and I know the truth. He was probably exhausted from trying to hear with all the background noise and decided quiet solitude was better than the embarrassment and effort of not hearing what others had to say.

My family unfair

My family’s lack of support didn’t help my father accept his hearing loss. My mother would sometimes whisper mean things to my sister and me behind his back. She’d tell us not to worry because, “He can’t hear us.” Her behavior taught me that hearing loss was shameful, embarrassing and something a person needed to tackle on his own, without help or emotional support.

Despite this backdrop, I approached my first hearing test like any other—I wanted to do well. “Was that a beep?” I asked myself over and over during the exam. If the answer was even a “maybe,” I pressed the button. “The patient was difficult to test,” it said on my audiology report, “due to a high number of false positives.” Perhaps I was trying to trick the test into showing that my hearing was fine. No such luck.

This was a long time ago. Now, I’ve accepted my adult-onset genetic hearing loss and I work to help others live fully with their own hearing loss. I became a hearing health advocate, and currently sit on the national board of Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I also share the challenges and successes of my experience through my blog LivingWithHearingLoss.com.

Hear’s what patients want

Those difficult early years of experiencing hearing loss stay with me, however, and I’m not the only one. People with hearing loss remember their first visit to an audiologist’s office. They experience high hopes alongside great worry. Here are five things I—and other patients—want from audiologists during that first visit and throughout our care.

1. Acknowledge our hearing loss story. Some stories are traumatic—others less so—but every patient has one. Give all patients a little time to talk. Ask why we’re there and listen to our answer. Your response has a big impact on the likelihood we’ll continue treatment. Offering upbeat yet realistic expectations for what we can accomplish also helps us accept the diagnosis.

2. Provide accommodations at your office. Your receptionist should be welcoming and easy to understand, even over the phone. Speaking clearly and while facing the patient is critical. Consider investing in a hearing loop for your office. Not only does it show respect, but it can also be used to test the t-coil in your patients’ hearing aids. Provide a written summary of each visit including audiogram results and recommended action steps. This makes us more likely to follow your advice.

3. Focus on hearing solutions, not products. Be sure to explore your patient’s priorities for hearing better. Do they work and need a captioned phone? Attend the theater often? Dine out frequently? The more you know, the more appropriate solutions you can offer.

4. Keep up to date on hearing assistive technology. New devices are constantly coming on the market to help people with hearing loss watch TV, enjoy dining out and more successfully attend a lecture or live performance. Stay current on innovations to better integrate these items into your patient’s hearing loss tool kit.

5. Bridge a link to the broader hearing loss community. Your patient looks to you for answers. Explain the risks of untreated hearing loss, the latest scientific research and where she can go to learn more. Suggest the patient meet other people with hearing loss through a local HLAA chapter or similar group. A strong community for your patient helps support better hearing.

Denying his hearing loss significantly reduced my father’s ability to connect with other people—even family. I hope my insights as a hearing loss patient will help others avoid his challenges.

This article was originally published in The ASHA LeaderReproduced with their permission.  

 Living With Hearing Loss is also on Facebook and Twitter!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

26 thoughts on “5 Things a Person With Hearing Loss Wants From An Audiologist

  1. Katherine Bouton – New York – Katherine Bouton is the author of "Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss." (2018) available at Amazon.com or B&N.com in paperback or ebook. It updates and amplifies the now-out-of-print "Living Better with Hearing Loss." Her first book, "Shouting Won't Help," tells the story of her hearing loss and her bumpy and sometimes hilarious journey to acceptance. She is a former editor at The New York Times, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She is President of the New York City Chapter of HLAA. Her blog can be found at katherinebouton.com. She has had progressive bilateral hearing loss since she was 30.
    Katherine Bouton says:

    Shari, This is such an important column. I’m happy to see it was published in the ASHA Leader — audiologists need to know this as well as their patients.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks Katherine!

  2. myhearinglossstory – Hi, My name is Carly. I am 38 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for more than 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. In August 2016, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.
    myhearinglossstory says:

    Hello Shari. I agree so much with this – especially points number 1 and 3. As I am only 34 and have severe hearing loss only in one ear, I have been told by one audiologist, that i am not the usual ‘old person who has been having gradual hearing loss in both ears’. Audiologists need to know their patients story and about their ‘hearing hopes’ , to be able to know the best way to help them. Thank you for posting this. I am happy also to see it was published for audiologists to see. Take care. Carly

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Carly.

  3. Hi Shari, I like all your good suggestions but one particularly caught my attention, was the one suggesting a written summary at the end of the meeting! Would like to see it have more emphasis in your blog! That is especially important after first appointments with the audiologist!

    Your comment about too many “positive answers” on the hearing test strikes me because when I have tested with audiologists, in response to my question as to whether I should click on a beep if I’m uncertain as to whether I really did hear it, I’ve been advised to go ahead and click! Maybe things have changed since the test you are talking about here.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is interesting about the extra positives. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. Thanks for this wonderful article. I have a hearing loss since childhood, and yes I was always embarrassed. People, especially young people/children can be so cruel. When I went for audiological exams, I too pressed the buzzer, not because I wanted to cheat, but there were times I actually thought I heard it. What really bothered me were the audiologists (not all of course) attitude. I actually saw an audiologist discuss my results with a receptionist, then laugh! Roll forward many years later, and I became a nurse. I gravitated to deaf /hard of hearing patients because I knew exactly what they were going through. Audiologists , I feel , need to be more understanding. My experience with them (and I have much experience since childhood), is not good. Hopefully, this has changed!

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience and for the good work you are doing as a nurse to help other people with hearing loss.

    • I know this is a bit off topic but you say that you are a nurse, I am studying (just starting) to be a veterinary technician and I have concerns about how my hearing loss will impact my acceptance into the professional program. Would you mind emailing me so I can get some perspective on how your hearing loss has affected you being a nurse? It would be greatly appreciated. Jennifer_mcmican@yahoo.com

  5. Jerry Henderson – Pownal Maine – Thank you for coming to my space. This is where I post thoughts, opinions and commentary on a variety of subjects at irregular intervals. I try to do something weekly, but have not nailed down a rigid schedule, like every Wednesday, yet. If you would like email notifications of new posts, you can make that happen right on the site. Simply enter your email address to subscribe. Also, if you would like to comment I welcome that. Just do so in the space at the bottom of any selected post. Sharing thoughts, opinion and commentary is a peculiarly human characteristic. It must be exercised to be enjoyed. Jerry Henderson
    Jerry Henderson says:

    Thank you Shari. These points need to become standard fodder in the hearing loss treatment discussion. The main takeaway for me is that audiologists need to focus on client needs more and less on HAs. Of course there are times when these things constitute the primary effort. However, ALDs can be as important as hearing aids in producing a satisfying listening experience. It’s a multifaceted effort and some solutions are less profitable than others. The arrival of OTC hearing aids will, I believe, go a long way toward re-focusing the entire industry, while creating an environment of permission for people reluctant to acknowledge their hearing loss.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Well said, Jerry. I agree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. A very good article. Thanks Shari. I was a bit amused by the notion of your desire to ‘do well’ on the hearing test resulting in false positives. That definitely resonated. While I am not in the slightest bit embarrassed by my hearing loss, and make no effort to hide it, I want to do well when tested (any kind of test), leading I’m sure to false positives. Why? Maybe I’m just type A and want to excel at everything. One other point about what people want (or should want) from an audiologist, namely objectivity. My sense is that some audiologists are too closely partnered with a single hearing aid company. When that happens their advice is not necessarily in the best interests of the patient.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great point. Thanks for sharing your advice.

  7. Thanks for a great story that should be required reading for every audiologist! I’ve seen audiologists now for over 60 years – and never has one suggested HLAA as a resource. They assumed that since I’d worn a hearing aid since the age of 5 and was reasonably well adjusted – that I was more of a role model. Consequently when I DID finally get involved with HLAA with the attitude that “I wanted to share my lifetime of experience with newly diagnosed hearing loss people” I was sadly mistaken about how little I really knew. My first convention was a California State Conference in 1996 and I was completely overwhelmed by how much I had to learn. ALDs were completely new to me, and once I found them, I felt liberated! This whole topic deserves its own blog about the lack of or very inconsistent aural rehabilitation. Thanks for all you do for us!

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and insights Mary!

    • joeysmom – 2010. The year my dream comes true. I will be starting culinary school to achieve a certification in baking/pasties. My life long goal is to start a bakery completely employed by at-risk teenagers.
      sarahreid63 says:

      Mary,
      I remember what an office assistant told me, “yeah, you’ve been wearing hearing aids long enough…” Yes, I’ve wearing hearing aids for 5 years (at the time). But I only know what you’re willing to share with me. I didn’t know about Tcoil up until 5 years…which has changed my life as a lot of my friends and family have gotten married in venues that have loop/tcoil. I also live in GR, MI. Which to my knowledge, is the only airport with loop.

  8. joeysmom – 2010. The year my dream comes true. I will be starting culinary school to achieve a certification in baking/pasties. My life long goal is to start a bakery completely employed by at-risk teenagers.
    sarahreid63 says:

    THANK YOU so much for writing this! I am 28 and got my first pair of hearing aids more than a decade ago. No audiologist/hearing aid fitter told me about t-coil and I really needed custom fit molds (instead of domes). It wasn’t until I went to Costco (of all places) where I felt I was truly listened too and got a great product that fits my lifestyle and needs–that was 4 years ago (so, I waited 7 years? Pretty pathetic)

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad you have what you need now! It is important to stay informed as technology changes rapidly. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great one! Thanks.

  9. I have moderate/mild hearing loss in both ears (depending on frequency), and I realise it’s not bad compared to a lot of people who come by my audiologist..

    …but I’m a teacher, and I can’t hear my students across the table. I can’t hear if they’re saying yes or no when I do name call at the start of the class – sometimes I just write that they’re present even though I have no clue. I can’t talk to my colleagues in the office without walking over and standing next to them. When people go “I don’t like using the microphone and I don’t know how to switch it on,” I’m out of the loop for the rest of the meeting.

    So maybe a piece of advice should just be that even though the hearing loss isn’t “that bad” compared to others the audiologists see – it IS that bad to me.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing this. Hearing loss, no matter how “mild” has a huge impact on our lives.

  10. falliblefragments – I am a 22 year old Phd student in auditory neurosciences. That seems a safe way to describe myself. I used to have many more words to do so, but I am no longer sure about them. It feels like I am at the age where you really start to understand who you are and who you are not. Sometimes you are pleased with your findings, sometimes you have to recognize your flaws. However, it feels nice to finally get a grip on where you fit in, in life.
    falliblefragments says:

    I am a young audiologist. Thank you for making this post. It is really interesting to see a hearing appointment through the patient’s eyes.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad you found it helpful! Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply