There is a particular type of person I am thinking of…as a hearing care professional, you have probably met this person…I, myself, am one of them and (if you are honest with yourself) so are you. Who is this person? This person is the information finder, the internet searcher, the self-educator, the ‘I want to know!’ person, who walks into your office armed with knowledge they have found on the internet. The easy access to information has allowed people to be active players in all areas of their lives. And you know what? This is a GOOD thing. I know some of you are probably starting to roll your eyes at that comment (believe me, I have had my share of printouts on my desk) but hear me out.
The person who spends the time researching hearing aids or looking up information about hearing loss on the internet is one who is invested in doing something about their hearing loss. The more the person knows about their choices and why a hearing aid is important, the more they are invested in improving their communication. This person probably found you, the hearing care professional, on the internet, because they are invested in finding the best place for them to go and learn more and to get help. Those who are invested in improving their hearing and communication are those who are generally going to be our most successful hearing aid users. And this is what we want.
Of course, not everyone who comes into your office is so invested, so we need to help them understand their hearing and what it means. Help them understand their choices and how technology can really help. We want to help them become invested in their hearing. But how? The easy answer is, start at the beginning and move forward.
The hearing aid fitting process
Let’s look at the various parts in a hearing aid fitting process: hearing test, hearing aid selection, hearing aid fitting, and post fitting. There are things that you can do at each step to help your client understand their hearing loss better and how hearing aids can help them.
- Add speech testing to your standard tone audiogram. Explaining the audiogram is important, but often lacks the ability to transfer information to a real world understanding for the client. Completing speech testing (with and without noise) will give them a better idea about their hearing capabilities than a tone audiogram alone.
- Keep visual tools close at hand. Visual explanations can help the client understand how their hearing loss affects their daily activities. This can include something like the speech banana (oldy but goodie) for a quick explanation, a written text with faded out words or letters to simulate information loss depending on the type of hearing loss. Or any other ingenious and fun tools you have thought up.
- Remove visual cues. We know that lip reading can really help with understanding in difficult listening situations. It is even more important for someone with hearing loss. You can help demonstrate this by simply covering your mouth with something while talking. This helps them understand how much they miss with their ears.
Hearing aid selection
- Real ear measurement (REM). Why tell the client how much they can gain when you can show them. Using your REM system, fit the clients with a set of demo hearing aids so they can see and understand how much they can benefit from hearing aids. Let family members use the Live Voice functionality to give them a concrete real-life example.
- Keep it simple. Listing off a bunch of features and options can often be overwhelming to a new user. Use tools provided in the software (sound files) to demonstrate speech in noise or other daily sounds. This is also great for demonstrating accessories.
Hearing aid fitting
- Real ear measurement (REM). In case you haven’t noticed, I am a fan of REM. Using REM can help personalize the fitting to the clients’ ears and hearing loss. A good first fit is important for user acceptance.
- Speech tests. Completing aided speech testing can help them understand their aided benefit, when compared to their unaided testing completed during the initial hearing test. Using a speech-in-noise test will give them a more realistic understanding of their aided benefit.
- Shaping expectations. Having the right expectations for their hearing and hearing aids will help them be a more successful hearing aid user. Although listed here, helping the users manage their expectations starts at the beginning and continues through the whole process.
Post hearing aid fitting appointments
- Schedule a post fitting appointment. Having an appointment following the initial fitting is important for you to see how the users are adjusting to their new hearing aids. This appointment can be used for adjustments and to continue to help them understand what they should (or shouldn’t) expect from their hearing aids.
- Regular follow-up appointments. Having a regular follow-up schedule can help address any problems the users may be facing before it becomes a big issue. These appointments help keep the hearing aids on the ears and out of the drawer.
There are many things we can do to help our clients understand their hearing and hearing aids better and it starts at the beginning with the hearing test and continues with the follow-up appointments. The tools that you use might take a little extra time but can have a long-term benefit for you and your clients. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated, pick some tools or processes that work for you and use them. Having a better understanding can lead to happier and more successful hearing aid users.
Having a better understanding can lead to happier and more successful hearing aid users.