The news station on TV in the hospital waiting room wasn’t captioned. I wasn’t terribly interested in the news as I waited for my cochlear implant surgery but still, I felt the familiar emotion: “Oh for heaven’s sakes, how do they expect people with hearing loss to understand!”
A little bit of access would have improved the experience.
What about the experience for people entering hearing aid clinics? What would make it better?
A good start is being able to see the front office staff when we walk in. Some sit behind big counters and we can barely see their faces let alone their smiles or lips. The counters may be great to lean on, but the staff person is forced to look up at you and then back to the computer—back and forth, back and forth—while next appointments are discussed.
Most hearing clinic waiting rooms are devoid of hearing loss information. Does this make sense? I mean this is where we come for help, which hopefully includes information. I’m talking about something more than manufacturer hearing aid pamphlets. How about books and articles that can ramp up a client’s knowledge of living with hearing loss? Hearing care professionals will talk to us about the shiny-shimmery technology they are recommending, but I’m talking about real life communication strategies. There’s a lot of helpful, life-changing stuff out there that clients need to know about, including local consumer hearing support groups.
The clinics often have the retail chain’s advertising posters on prominent display. These show very attractive, very happy people but I’ve looked—really closely—and I can’t see hearing aids on those beautiful peeps. Not the slightest hint of plastic wires coming from behind a pinna. I guess the message is that this could be you! Wear our hearing aids and no one will notice and everybody’s happy. Yes, it could be me, maybe, with some teeth-whitening dental work, a facelift and different hair. C’mon, let’s see the hearing aids.
And even before we step through the door….I dunno…maybe a little welcome humor? A sidewalk sign that says, “C’mon in – we’re “hear” for you!” That might be too much, but since the day hearing aid clinics have been allowed to be storefront and not hidden away in a medical building, the new retail chain names have upped the inspiration and positivity factor: Hearing Connections, Hearing Solutions, Lifestyle Hearing, Hear for Life, even Hearing by Design, etc.
A point that needs to be hammered home: front office staff should be articulate and communication-savvy. I mean, everyone they greet has hearing loss, and even the best speechreading and best hearing aids can’t cut through mumbling, lack of eye contact, overly soft (or overly loud) voices, and dropped consonants.
And I love clinics that have their client commitment and mission statement plastered on the waiting room wall. Firstly it gives us something to look at when there’s nothing else to read besides hearing aid brochures. Secondly, it’s reassuring to know that your commitment is to providing me with quality service and the ability to communicate better. It says so, right there on the wall, so if for any reason things go a little off-track with my hearing care professional, we can hold hands and go read that waiting room wall art again.
The front desk should be looped so that people with active t-coils in their hearing aids can communicate clearly with staff. Oh heck – loop the whole office!
Finally, a TV that shows hearing loss videos is fabulous, but for the love of Mike, make sure they are captioned! You’d think we hear well or something! Also, a water cooler and/or a coffee machine. It’s a nice touch.
Photo: A photo of a great waiting room: Audiology Clinic, Inc.
Photo: Clip of Oticon happy people. As an Oticon user, I’ve been this happy too, but I just don’t look like this.
Note: Watch for my Cochlear Implant series coming soon.