I have a Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) that I try to use every time I see a patient. This SOP can be described simply as: look in the ear, look in the hearing aid, measure the amplification, check to be sure the amplification is providing good hearing, and listen to–and solve–any problems the patient may have. In a future article I will discuss this procedure in more depth.
Today, I want to stress the importance of using a standard approach every time you see a patient. If the patient happens to be a personal friend or if you have seen this patient so many times over the years that you have become good friends, you may be tempted to break your standard protocol. You may become more informal and swap jokes or talk about a topic you know the patient loves.
It’s fine to establish friendly relationships with patients, but be careful not to become too informal in your treatment. There is great value in adhering to a well-established series of treatment steps with every patient. When unanticipated problems occur, as they sometimes do, following a systematic, programmed approach will help you detect them and then treat them.
BEWARE OF MAKING ASSUMPTIONS
Also, all of us have some sophisticated patients, medical doctors, engineers, professors, and the like–people who are a lot smarter than we are. With such patients it’s easy to fall into the trap of giving them too much credit and assuming they have checked the basic functions of the hearing aids you have fitted on them.
When I talk about this topic, I’m always reminded of “Benny,” a gentleman and a friend who did a lot of the engineering in the space program. When I first met Benny, he gave me his card. On the back it said, “Our engineering is sitting on the moon.” Very impressive! He was a bright, high-functioning engineer.
Then one day–and this will happen to all of us if we practice long enough–Benny came to see me. His hearing aid had stopped working. I looked at it carefully and then checked it. The battery was dead. I changed the battery and handed it back to him. He said words I cannot put into print, then walked out the door.
Regardless of the patient’s sophistication, you need to check the basics (water drops in sound tube, check battery, etc.). Some patients become friends. That’s natural, but do not slip into the habit of treating them differently. Regardless of your personal relationship with a patient, always look in their ears for wax, listen to their hearing aid to check the sound, and look carefully at their hearing aid for defects.