Audiologists provide much guidance and support to their patients, but few appointments regularly include family members. This is a missed opportunity. In my latest article for Ida Institute, I describe the ways that including family in audiology appointments can benefit the patient, their families, as well as the audiologists themselves. With Telehealth likely a growing aspect of care in our new COVID-19 world, including the family may be easier to achieve than in the past. An excerpt from the piece appears below. You can read the full article on Ida Institute.
Including the Family in Audiology Appointments
Most people with hearing loss start their journey alone. While family members are likely the first people to notice when someone has trouble hearing, they often don’t know how to help. This was the case with my father’s hearing loss. My family knew he had trouble hearing our conversations at dinner and that he was overwhelmed by background noise at parties, but he was so stigmatized by his hearing loss that he never asked for assistance and we never figured out how we could help. As the years passed, my father became increasingly isolated from everyone. I wish we had done more to support him. If only we had known what steps to take, we could have saved much unhappiness and frustration for the whole family.
Share Your Insights With Your Patient’s Family
Hearing loss is difficult to understand if you have not experienced it yourself. This is true even if the person with hearing loss is a family member that you see regularly. Attending audiology appointments will help educate the person’s family about the seriousness of the condition and provide tools they can use to provide support. Here are the ways you can help your patient by including family.
1. Explain listening effort. My hearing loss friends sometimes complain that their families accuse them of selective hearing or not trying hard enough to hear. These statements are hurtful, especially since most people with hearing loss are expending a lot of energy each day to do what people with typical hearing take for granted — verbal communication. Including the family in appointments will help them understand the severity of their family member’s hearing loss. Show them the audiogram and explain the speech banana. As an expert, your input may get through where the family member’s explanations have not.
More patient benefits are discussed in the full article.
Gather Useful Insight Into Your Patient’s Experiences
Contact with your patient’s family can also be useful for you as you work to understand your patient’s particular communication challenges. The family may have insights into the situations that are easiest and hardest for your patient to hear, as well as what listening strategies they are currently using. Having the family involved in treatment planning can also help boost the likelihood of patient compliance.
1. Gain first-hand observations from communication partners. The patient’s family will have specific insight into what situations are most difficult for your patient. They can share lifestyle changes that have taken place, as well as communication goals that your patient might be less willing to discuss. The better data you can gather, the more tailored your treatment recommendations can be. Your guidance may need to include both hearing aids and other assistive listening devices or apps.
More audiologist benefits are discussed in the full article.