We spend years in school to earn a professional degree. We study long hours. We read trade journals. We attend continuing education classes. All of these forms of learning are critically important. But, they may not be our greatest professional asset.
Instinct, that feeling we have in our gut, may be our greatest asset. Intuition guides us when other senses fail. And yet, it is not always easy to follow instinct. We are often eager to “complete a task” and may become impatient if our instinct cautions us to slow down.
If it Doesn’t Feel Right, it Probably Isn’t
Here is an example of what I mean. You fit Sue with a pair of BTE instruments. She is anxious to try them and she is delighted when you first put them on her. Wow, she can hear! Her enthusiasm is infectious.
So far, everything is great. But, as you teach her to insert and remove her hearing aids, you become concerned about the right earmold. Something seems off to you. It just doesn’t feel quite right. A careful inspection of the mold doesn’t reveal anything remarkable. You ask Sue, “How does it feel?” and she says, “Fine, no problem at all.”
But the more you insert and remove the right earmold, the stronger your feeling becomes that something is wrong. It is not a good fit. It just doesn’t look right.
So, what do you do? Do you trust your instincts and delay the fitting until you get the right earmold remade? Or do you go along with Sue’s appraisal of the “comfort” level for the right earmold? After all, it is hard to pour cold water on a happy patient.
In my view, professional instinct should never be ignored, and you do so at your own peril. The efficiency of human instinct has been honed by millions of years of evolution. Paying attention to instinct often gives you the best chance of survival.
This is true in business, as well as biologically.
So, if you adjust the amplification for a patient’s new hearing aids, and your instinct tells you, “These settings are too loud, the amplification is too strong,” listen.
If you are fitting a high-tech system, and your instincts tell you, “This is too complicated…the patient will never learn to use this,” again you should pay attention. It is easy to overestimate a patient’s abilities.
Delaying Now Beats Failing Later
It is difficult to postpone the completion of a hearing aid fitting once you have started teaching the patient how to use the system. But experience teaches the wisdom of such delays. It is better to bite the bullet now, better to have the patient unhappy today than to have the patient reject the system after trying it unsuccessfully for a week.
I like to tell patients, “Fitting hearing aids is like playing baseball. Our goal for today is to get to first base. Only amateurs expect to hit a home run every time they step up to the plate. That is not how this game is played. We have to get to first base, first.”
I find that taking this approach keeps the patient happy and comfortable. I do not try to accomplish too much the first day, at the first fitting. The hearing aid should be comfortable, easy to put on, and easy to take off. The sound should be good: not too loud, not too soft. Comfortable.
I believe you maximize your chances of success if you have simple goals and make things clear and straightforward. In the end, keeping the patient comfortable and paying attention to your instincts gives you the best chance of making everyone happy.
Robert L. Martin, PhD, was the author of a popular Nuts & Bolts column at The Hearing Journal for many years before to joining HHTM as an editor and regular contributor. He owned and managed a private audiology practice in the San Diego area for nearly 40 years.
*This post was originally published May 19, 2015. Updated March 10, 2019. Image courtesy army.mil