How many times have you told a patient what hearing aid they need, only to be told, “Well, that’s fine, but I want the other one.”
At times there is a substantial difference between the hearing aid system that would work best for patients and the system that they want. Some hearing aids have the potential to be modified into different configurations, but others don’t.
Regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we are the professionals and our opinion is what counts, the reality of the situation is that we are in a “customer pleasing” business. This can be difficult when the patient is not interested in our point of view.
I have a friend in this field who tells me, “Bob, you spend your time and energy swimming upstream. Stop fighting the current. Don’t let your education and personal background get in the way. Give your patients what they want.”
There is no doubt that it would be much easier to listen to the patient, briefly give them my opinion, and then let them make a quick decision. But that is not what I do. Why not? Because I believe my best chance for a long-term relationship with a patient is to help get them into the system that is best for them.
A few times I have given patients CIC hearing aids—even though I did not recommend them–only to have them come back a year later asking me, “Why did you sell me these hearing aids if you knew they weren’t going to work?”
So what are we to do?
FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE
Years ago I worked with a man named Jack. He had a severe hearing loss and a unique “bedside manner”; he was brutally honest. He would say things to patients like, “You don’t want to worry about being pretty; you are already beautiful. You want to get these big ugly hearing aids. They work better.”
When I first started working with Jack, his blunt approach scared me. I thought patients would hate him. But, to my surprise, they liked his honesty, his straightforwardness. He didn’t play games and he always spoke his mind. And it worked. People listened to him respected his point of view.
Luckily for us we no longer have to choose between big and ugly instruments that people don’t like and discreet little ones that won’t give some patients the hearing help they need. Today, even high-power hearing aids come in tiny cases.
But the amount of time we spend interacting with patients is increasing because hearing aids can do more, solve more problems. So the quest to find the balance between what patients “want” and what they “need” continues.
In an ideal world we would have all our patients watch three or four videos in which attractive hearing aid wearers talk about all the features on their instruments. That way patients would receive some basic education about hearing aids before making the “buying” decision. But since that’s probably not an option for most of us, we need to work hard to convince patients to want the hearing aid they need.