The Future – Better – Hearing Professional

Based in Denmark, the Ida Institute is a think-and-action tank for hearing care professionals.  Although funded by a grant from Oticon, the institute is an independent non-profit that aims to make client-centered care the standard of hearing health.  Ida’s mission is to ‘foster a better understanding of the human dynamics associated with hearing loss”.

Among its many projects, Ida has introduced Vision 2020, a collaboration that seeks to create a global vision for what hearing healthcare should and could be, presumably just six years from now.   The first of the Vision 2020 initiatives is the “Hearing Care Specialist of the Future”, designed to help audiologists adapt to a changing industry and go beyond the audiogram to become more client-focused.

According to the ideas outlined in a recent article on the Institute’s website, this ideal professional will, among other things:

  •  Encourage client-centered care (they used the word patient-centered, but I prefer the non-medical model term ‘client’) with a focus on meeting the needs of the person, not on the professional’s need to sell a hearing aid.
  • Offer flexible services, including a more accurate assessment of client needs (thank you, thank you!)
  • Improve communication (this is a big one!) so that clients have a better understanding of their hearing loss and the need for rehabilitative management rather than looking for a quick fix.
  • Facilitate the use of new technology.  (Hooray, at last!)   Professionals should not only “help patients use it themselves, but also use it in their practices to allow more time for counseling sessions.”

Ida, you GO girl! 

This is what hearing loss advocates and consumer groups have been asking for—for years.   These concepts are not new, and while many hearing professionals do deliver client-centered care, it’s far from the universal standard.  I hope the Ida Institute project will have legs, that it will go somewhere, that it will produce results, that it will establish standards.

Is this too much to ask for?   I don’t think so;  in fact, I have a couple of other requests to add to the shopping list, just in case they’re not already included in the vision:

  • People with hearing loss (PWHL) should be consulted in this process.  After all, client-centered care is based on helping us live a better life with hearing loss, and we would bring a lot to the drafting table.
  • Beef up the requirement and the training for professionals to become Communication Specialists, as outlined in a recent article by Dr. Charles Laszlo.  We applaud the concept that the professional should understand, use and demonstrate not only the industry-produced assistive listening devices, but also the new and emerging smart technology in all its forms.  Use it, demonstrate it, sell it.
  • Don’t ignore telecoils and looping.  The current strong advocacy efforts by international consumer groups to promote telecoils and looping is proof that PWHL benefit from this option.  It’s basic, affordable and makes life more inclusive on a broader scale for people with hearing loss.

One more thing I didn’t see in the article, although it may indeed be included in the Institute’s vision of the Hearing Care Specialist of the Future, is the positive practice of referring clients to peer support.  Consumers who have connected with consumer hearing loss groups (HLAA, CHHA, EFHOH, etc.) or individual PWHL, say this move helped ‘save their lives’, because it gave them a welcoming outlet to discuss their hearing loss.  The more we can talk about our issues, the better we feel about them, the more normal we feel.  From other people, we learn about solutions that work in all areas of our lives—strategies we never hear about in the professional’s office.  Almost everything that I have learned about living with hearing loss – not just a hearing aid – has been through personal experience and my connections with other PWHL and consumer associations.

But here’s a shout out to hearing care professionals:  we also need this important information to come from you, because you are often our first contact in the steps towards a better hearing life.  In addition to the referral to consumer support, give us other resources such as helpful websites or, even better, an in-house publication. My HHTM colleague, audiologist Holly Hosford-Dunn sends out regular newsletters that have been valuable both for her clients and for her business.   (The only information I get from either my audiologist’s retail chain or my hearing aid manufacturer are sales letters, encouraging a technical upgrade or asking me to refer my friends to them.  But I’m there because of my individual practitioner, not because of the retail chain.)

To be a true hearing care specialist, learn what’s in the corners of the hearing loss life.  If your client asked you, right this minute, how to hear better in the car or when listening to the television, for non-technical strategies for dealing with hearing loss in intimacy, do you have the answers?  Can you talk about the benefits of smart technology, captioning and looping?  Whose job is it to tell your client about these things, to reassure her that she’s not alone, that there is help? Who tells her how to cope, what to do?

If you’re doing this already, thank you!  If not, the hearing care specialist of the future will.

And thank you, Ida institute, for creating Vision 2020’s “Hearing Care Specialist of the Future”….we look forward to experiencing the results.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

6 Comments

  1. As I read this, I had just finished a conversation with another hearing impaired friend I have met due to the similar interests in some geeky things (let’s just say we like a certain TV show haha). I’m in the midst of attempting to get live-captioning for these conventions for said television show, and it’s proving difficult. That said, it makes me happy to know that with persistence, it could change. If not for me, then hopefully soon such things like conventions can be accessible for all!

  2. Abundant thanks, Gael, for this very important piece.

    The Ida Institute is one of three groups for hearing healthcare professionals that engage in research on best practices for broad, holistic approaches to hearing loss treatment. (ASHA’s Special Interest Group 7 and the Academy of Rehabilitation Audiology engage in many of the same areas of inquiry, and, not coincidentally, include many of the same professional members as Ida.)

    In October of last year, Ida’s Timothy Cooke wrote a piece for the Ida website on the HLAA Boston Chapter’s newly developed website, which serves as an “information station” for the Boston hearing loss community (www.hearinglossboston.org .) It was a tremendous affirmation for us to be recognized by Ida, and my hope is that Ida, the ARA and ASHA SIG 7 will become increasingly central to the work of making broad approaches to hearing healthcare the standard model for the practice of audiology.

    Thanks again to you, Gael! You are a most treasured resource for people with hearing loss.

    Peggy Ellertsen,
    HLAA Boston Chapter

  3. “…learn what’s in the corners of the hearing loss life.”
    This phrase truly resonated. Upon reflection as to why, I decided “corners” is where I so often, metaphorically, as well as hard-to-hear reality, find myself.
    Thanks for another great column.

  4. I like the terminology of client instead of patient. Installation of telecoils should be mentioned and in all hearing aids before the client walks out of the door.

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