How can we work together as an industry to make person-centered care a reality for each appointment? That was the topic of my talk at the Eleventh International Adult Aural Rehabilitation Conference in Woburn, MA. With a focus on aural rehabilitation, this gathering was already singing from the hymn book of person-centered care and a more-than-just-a-hearing-aid approach to audiology.
Rather than center my talk on the benefits of a multi-pronged approach to hearing care, I focused on the ways this group of like-minded audiologists, researchers, and people with hearing loss could help drive a broader acceptance of this approach throughout the hearing care industry.
What is a Multi-Pronged Approach to Hearing Care?
The best hearing care professionals are communication specialists who create personalized solutions, including both technology and non-technical strategies. And they don’t do it alone. Instead, they work closely with the person with hearing loss, in a true partnership.
The clinician is the guide: painting the Big Picture of hearing loss, incorporating all types of technology into the treatment plan and setting appropriate expectations for how that technology will work. And then they reach beyond the technology to include other types of communication strategies including behavior and attitude changes! This is the three-legged stool of skills we talk about in Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss.
People with hearing loss have responsibilities too. We are the experts in our lived experience, yet we may not feel comfortable discussing it at first. Our hearing care providers can help us share our hearing loss journey and struggles with them. When we are honest about our needs, they can better help us meet them.
The more involved we are, the more both sides will benefit.
Let’s Make This Happen
Like the conference attendees, many of you reading this article are already strong believers in a multi-pronged approach to hearing care. But how can we help spread the word? Here are some ideas:
Include the patient perspective in all industry events.
We could co-present at industry conferences, write articles together, or create other media together. Or invite people with hearing loss to contribute on their own. I try to speak at as many conferences as possible, but unless my talks (or similar talks) are accepted, the voice of the patient is often missing.
Include the lived experience in student curriculums.
One of our goals for Hear & Beyond is to get it on the required reading list for all audiology programs. The more often students are exposed to a multi-pronged approach to care, the more likely it is that they will adopt it in their own practices down the road. The same is true for our documentary film We Hear You.
Understanding the lived hearing loss experience builds the empathy and understanding that drives person-centered care.
Validate the benefits of a multi-faceted approach.
Audiologists are an analytical bunch so it will be important to show the impact of a three-legged stool approach to hearing care to demonstrate its value. What metrics can we use in the clinic or the classroom to do this?
Educate consumers on their role in this process.
Like communication, hearing care is a two-way street requiring buy-in from both the provider and the client. People with hearing loss must understand their role in the partnership and the importance of their input in creating better outcomes.
Please be in touch if you would like to collaborate. Together, we can help improve hearing care for all of us.
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.