For hearing aid and cochlear implant users, one of the most important people in our lives is our hearing care professional (HCP).
This person has more influence on my peace of mind, bank account and quality of life than I would normally give to anyone not a husband, child, parent or BFF. I see my HCP more frequently than I see my family doctor, probably because hearing loss poses more barriers than other health challenges. It makes me more dependent on technology, which is prone to becoming blocked, broken, flooded and generally more stuffed up than any other body part, internal or external.
The top factors in the Quality-of-Life index are health, family life, and community life. My personal Q-O-L index improves in these areas when I have good communication. This means being able to move through the day, fully connected to people and technology, with communication access available whether I take advantage of it or not, just like the hearing people do or don’t.
Lack of good communication is stressful – not just for me, but for the people in my life. If I’m having a bad hearing day, you don’t want to be around me. If my hearing aid breaks down, you’ll want to clear out of town. Oh wait – I would need you to drive me to the HCP, because I’d be engaging in what we used to call a hairy canary. And that’s why I need the best possible – the perfect – HCP who would see me right away, wipe my tears, calm me down, and have me communicating well again, as soon as possible.
And that’s also why, when I find an HCP that I trust, I commit myself to a relationship with that person. The only reason I would ever leave for a new hearing professional is if she (or he) moved away, as was the case with my second-audiologist-ago, or had a baby, as did my last audiologist. Happily, the HCP who stepped into their office shoes is a wonderful hearing instrument specialist. I will stay with her as long as she doesn’t move away or start a family – or unless I move out of town. I’m staying with her because I choose to, because she’s good. I’m lucky to live in an area where there is competition for my business. If I lived in the far north of Canada, for example, I would depend on the services of the circuit HCP, who might swing through every few months.
But if I were on the market for another HCP, I would use this checklist when conducting interviews:
Communication skills: Good articulator, well-modulated voice, hopefully in the lower frequencies, faces me when speaking. (Without these, there’s no point in continuing the interview. Also, I’m tired of training my HCPs to speak better.)
Well-trained: A graduate of an Audiology or HIS program with a real diploma or certificate on the wall. Preferably more than one, indicating additional courses in technology and communications.
Problem-solver: Goes beyond comprehensive hearing testing to ask questions about lifestyle and communication needs. If s/he responds to a question with “I don’t know”, will also say, “but I’ll find out and let you know” and then follows through. (This sounds more complicated than it actually is.)
Empathetic, non-paternalistic: An HCP who assumes to automatically know what’s good for me and prescribes a course of action without my input is not only doing me a disservice, but themselves as well.
Technically knowledgeable, humanly creative: Does not regard the hearing aid as the single piece of equipment holding the universe together; will recommend and provide information on other real-life strategies such as smartphone and telecoil technology, speechreading, and other sources of support.
If you’re an HCP and feeling nervous that you can’t meet the above criteria, let me reassure you: with a little bit of effort and a whole lot of desire, you can. These quotes may help:
Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. Salvador Dali
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. Vince Lombardi
If you come anywhere close to being a perfect HCP, people with hearing loss will be knocking on your door. And if you were my HCP, I’d meet you halfway. I want you to be happy with the perfect client.