Ask the Next Question – A Fable

ask questions audiology
Paul Teie
January 7, 2020

Once upon a time, a man had a home repair job to do and went to his local hardware store.  He said to the salesman at the hardware store, “I have a job to do at home and I need a tool for the job.”  The salesman said, “I have just the thing for you!”  He sold the man a hammer and the man went home, very happy that he had a tool for his job.  

But the tool didn’t work.  So he went back to the hardware store and told the salesman, “Yesterday I came here to get a tool for a job and you gave me a hammer but it didn’t work.”  “What happened?” asked the salesman.  “Well, it broke what I was working on.”  “I’m sorry,” said the salesman. “Try this and you shouldn’t have any problems.”  He sold the man a screwdriver and the man went home, very happy that he had a tool for his job.  

But this tool did not work either.  So he went back to the hardware store one more time and told the salesman, “Two days ago I came here for a tool, was given a hammer, and it didn’t work.  So yesterday I came here for another tool and you gave me a screwdriver but that didn’t work either. It was able to remove screws very well, but that didn’t help me with the job I needed done.”  

The salesman was very puzzled.  He had sold the man two of his very best and most useful tools, and neither one had helped the man at all.  He thought and thought and thought and finally asked the man, “Tell me this, what is the job that you need to do?”  The man replied, “I have to replace several window panes in my garage door.”  Suddenly the salesman knew exactly what to recommend!  “Well, why didn’t you say so?  All you need is this putty knife to remove the old glazing, these glazier points to hold the new pane of glass in place, this caulking gun to apply new glazing and your windows will be just like new.”  The man bought the putty knife, the glazing points and the caulking gun and went home, very happy that he had the tools for his job.  

And this time the tools worked.  


The moral of this story is…. what?   


In order to offer the proper solution for our customers, we need to determine the problem. One of my favorite observations had the provider waxing elaborately regarding the advantages of a certain favorite hearing aid feature of which they were clearly very enamored.  At the end of the monologue the patient said, “But that’s not a problem I am having.”  I could have kissed him.  The provider had not taken the trouble to determine what specific problems this patient was encountering.  Hence, the solution they offered missed the mark entirely.  

Say your patient says, “I have trouble hearing in noise.”  Not much of a surprise and maybe standard directional mics will do the trick.  But how about I dig a little deeper.  “Can you describe a situation that has been giving you trouble?”  Your patient responds, “It drives me crazy when I am washing the dishes and my husband talks to my back from the kitchen table.”  Now this is a completely different situation and standard d-mics are not up to the task.  The solution is whatever your manufacturer of choice calls directionality to 180°.  

Asking the next question is what will illuminate the problem and allow you to offer a solution that addresses it. 

Don’t be selling hammers and screwdrivers to people who need glazier points and a caulking gun.  


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