I recently presented at the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH) 2022 World Congress in Budapest, Hungary. It was an incredible opportunity to meet outstanding advocates from around the world including Shelly Chadha, the technical lead for ear and hearing care at World Health Organization (WHO) and the driver of WHO’s World Report on Hearing. I enjoyed many interesting presentations, learned about new listening technologies (look for another post on this soon), and shared my thoughts on the important responsibilities the person with hearing loss has in person-centered care.
A portion of my presentation is excerpted below.
Why Should We Care about Person-Centered Care?
Person-centered care (PCC) sounds technical, and something that hearing care providers (HCPs) should worry about, so why is it important for us—the people with hearing loss—to understand what it is and how to look for it? There are many reasons.
Understanding PCC helps us be an educated consumer. It sets our expectations high, which they should be. It teaches us what to look for in an audiologist and puts us in charge of our own care. Most importantly, understanding PCC increases the chances we will receive the best possible outcomes.
We play an important role in making that happen.
What is Person-Centered Hearing Care?
Person-centered care is about focusing care on the individual. It ensures that people’s preferences and values guide clinical decisions, and that prescribed care is respectful and responsive to each person’s needs. This approach applies to all types of medical care in a wide variety of settings.
For hearing care I have identified 4 main parts.
1. Partners with You: This means taking the time to understand each person’s specific hearing needs. Each of our journeys is unique so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
2. Makes the Office Hearing Loss Friendly: HCPs must remember that people are there because they cannot hear well. They must set up their office with this in mind.
3. Embraces Creativity: HCPs can get trapped in a hearing aid only approach, but more than that is usually needed. Linking aids to other assistive listening devices gives PWHL greater access in a wider variety of situations.
4. Thinks Beyond the Technology: Devices are a critical part of success with hearing loss, but as Gael Hannan and I describe in our book, “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, there is a softer side as well. The best HCPs will focus on this aspect as well.
Find a more detailed description of each aspect in my free e-book, “Person-Centered Care from the Patient’s Perspective.”
People with Hearing Loss Have Responsibilities
HCPs, even when they practice PCC, cannot perform miracles. We must actively participate in the process. The more we contribute—and the more questions we ask—the better the outcomes will be. Here’s how we can support this important partnership:
1. Share your hearing loss story and struggles.
This is not the time to play tough guy. The more you reveal about your personal challenges, the more information your HCP will have when planning possible solutions. Your experiences may change over time. Keep them updated as you progress along your journey.
2. Come armed with facts.
Keep detailed notes about how you are hearing in a variety of situations with your hearing aids so you can help your HCP with any necessary fine-tuning. The more specific data you can provide—the location, time of day, communication partner, decibel level, and so on—the better.
3. Leave anger at home.
Hearing loss is frustrating, and although hearing aids help a lot, they are not perfect solutions. Try to maintain an analytical attitude towards your communication issues. Anger won’t solve problems and may prevent you from finding a creative solution.
4. Respect your HCP’s expertise.
While you know the most about your experiences and communication needs, HCPs use time-tested diagnostic tools and programming methods. Blending the two areas of expertise is the best way to find a dynamic solution.
5. Teach what you know.
When you discover new tricks or useful apps that make hearing easier for you in a certain situation, share them with your HCP, who can then spread the word to other clients.
6. Stay in touch.
Regular hearing aid checkups are a good time to inquire about new assistive technology—and to let your HCP know of any changes to your hearing situation. Regular visits allow you to keep tabs on your hearing loss, keep your devices fresh, and stay current on new developments.
When we partner with our HCPs, both sides benefit. We get better care and HCPs get loyal customers. A win-win for us all.
Readers, do you understand your role in person-centered hearing care?