This is the third post in a series on why people with hearing loss should care about person-centered care. Today’s post discusses person-centered care’s second tenet: Make Your Office Hearing Loss Friendly.
Heading to a doctor’s appointment can be a scary proposition for a person with hearing loss. We worry if we will be able to hear the receptionist’s instructions and understand the doctor’s questions and recommendations. This is only harder now that we all are wearing masks to combat Covid-19. But when we head to an audiology appointment, we have different expectations. Here we expect our communication challenges to be understood, acknowledged and accommodated.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Why is it Important to Find a Hearing Loss Friendly Audiologist Office?
When your audiologist’s office is hearing loss friendly, you immediately feel respected and understood. You can see that they empathize with the communication challenges you are facing and are willing to take steps to alleviate them.
A hearing loss friendly office also highlights the clinic’s breadth of knowledge and comfort with alternative assistive listening devices. You want an audiologist that is well versed in a variety of communication enhancement technologies in addition to standard courses of treatment like hearing aids.
What Should You Look For?
A hearing loss friendly office also sets a positive tone for the appointment, letting you relax while you wait to see the audiologist, knowing you are in good hands.
It starts with making the appointment.
Making an appointment over the phone can be challenging for people with hearing loss so it is important that the receptionist speaks slowly and clearly. Even better, seek out an office that permits patients to make or confirm appointments by email or via an online system.
A quiet and well-lit office.
Background noise is uncomfortable for many people with hearing loss and it makes it harder to hear. Look for carpeting or other sound absorbing materials that help minimize sound. Notice if the office is well-lit to aid with lipreading.
Depending on the location of the office, some of these design elements may be outside of the audiologist’s control, but look for indications that they are trying to create an auditory experience that is conducive to better hearing.
Relevant literature in the waiting area.
Your audiologist should be tapped into the hearing loss community, both locally and nationally. The best ones will share information and brochures from local hearing loss support groups in their waiting area.
Look for national magazines like Hearing Life published by Hearing Loss Association of America. Reviewing publications like this while we wait helps us feel less alone in our struggles with hearing loss.
Hearing friendly office procedures.
Even in a small office, people with hearing loss may have difficulty hearing when our name is called. Rather than asking patients to sit on high alert while they wait, the best offices will let patients know they will be alerted personally when it is their turn. This can be accomplished with a light tap on the arm or a text message and will let us feel more relaxed while we wait.
In today’s Covid-19 world, hearing friendly office procedures may take a different form – like making sure that captions are provided for all telehealth appointments and that clear masks are used for in-person visits. The best audiologists will offer curbside service where you can drop off a broken device for servicing without leaving your car.
Be sure to clarify the office’s infection control strategies to make sure your devices are returned clean and ready for you to use safely.
Important information supplied in writing.
Sometimes we miss important details about our care but are too tired or embarrassed to ask for a repeat.
The best audiologists will provide a summary of your test results, what they mean, and a list of recommended action items in writing at each appointment. This makes the information easy to share with your family or caregivers. You can also refer to it later if you have any questions that arise after the appointment.
Easy and stress-free check-out.
This is the final touch point of your visit where payment is transacted or a follow-up appointment is made. For this to go smoothly, your audiologist should present all financial details in writing so you can review them clearly and without worry. The best audiologists will have a hearing loop or other types of hearing assistance available at the reception desk for easy use.
For more details on the importance of a hearing-loss friendly office, please consult my e-book Person-centered Care from the Patient’s Perspective.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She is the founder of Living With Hearing Loss, a blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. 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.