In my job I have the opportunity to conduct many interviews with prospective hearing care providers. These interviews typically cover clinical and sales/counseling topics. Most of the time it is a pleasant experience during which we have a conversation that is stimulating, perhaps I learn something, and there is give and take.
As a trainer (teacher), if the interview is particularly enjoyable, I might digress to make a teaching point or two. I figure they may get the job and I will have planted a few ideas ahead of time. Sometimes the interviews are less-than-inspiring. The answers are conventional, unimaginative or not compelling; not wrong, but not responses that would inspire acceptance of hearing help in a reluctant client.
I have found that responses to interview questions fall into three categories:
- “That’s what I was looking for!” I highlight these in red.
- “Not bad, but not great.” These I mark – meh.
- “Well, that’s different!” Usually good – sometimes I learn something.
Here are a few of the questions I typically ask with “meh” and red highlighted answers.
Describe for me what you believe is the role of the hearing care professional?
- We do hearing and balance tests and counsel our patients about hearing loss and hearing aids. (meh)
- We improve our patients’ lives by connecting them with their families, and friends. Human beings are wired for connection. Our brains are designed for socialization. The sense that is most critical to person-to-person communication is our hearing. So what we do, by improving our patients’ hearing, is fundamental to human happiness and well-being.
Besides the otological history and “FDA questions”, what kind of questions do you ask the patient?
- Lifestyle, manual dexterity, why they came in today. (meh)
- I really want to understand what is important for my client in terms of their hearing. If they have trouble hearing in noise, for example, I want to know what kind of situations, specifically, are giving them difficulty. I want to know how not being able to hear well in those situations is affecting them emotionally. I want to know how their hearing loss is affecting those around them. I hope their primary communication partner is in attendance as well so I can understand their perspective on their loved ones’ hearing difficulties.
How do you describe to a patient the (non-auditory) consequences of untreated hearing loss?
- I usually don’t bring it up unless I am getting push-back from the patient. If I do talk about it, I tell them that hearing is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition and that if they don’t get hearing aids soon, they will do them less good in the future. (meh)
- That is something I always talk to patients about, because I can really give them good news. First, I mention how hearing loss contributes to poorer quality of life – that people with hearing loss show higher rates of depression and social isolation than those who have better hearing. By nearly all measures, quality of life is poorer for people with untreated hearing loss. I also mention that better hearing is associated with better brain health. And I always finish by saying that for both quality-of-life and brain health, there is strong evidence that hearing aids help. That they improve quality of life and change the course of cognitive function for the better. I even mention this to younger patients who may not even have hearing loss yet because, should their hearing decline over time, I want them to know that hearing aids can be a positive thing for more than just hearing better. I leave them with the hopeful idea that, when it comes to quality of life and brain health, hearing aids help!
Tell me why you believe hearing aids are worth what patients are asked to invest in them?
- Because they are wearing tiny computers in their ears. Look at all the research and development that is required for these devices. And they are not just paying for the devices but for my time and expertise. (meh)
- Because the benefits of better hearing are worth the cost. You are going to be able to engage again with your friends and family. You will be able to enjoy nights out at the restaurant and understand your young grandchildren. Hearing aids will give you your life back. What is that worth?
How do you respond when a patient says they need to think about it?
- I don’t want to be too pushy, so I say, “OK, that’s fine. You think about it and how about we schedule you for another appointment in 6 months.” (meh)
- I ask them what they want to think about. I say, “There is no time like the present to address any questions you might have. I have all the time in the world so fire away.” Lots of times I am able to answer their questions sufficiently that they end up purchasing after all.
How do you respond to the patient who says, “My neighbor has hearing aids and he never wears them.”
- I say, “You need to get your neighbor in here. Every hearing loss is different. Maybe he didn’t get the right hearing aids or they weren’t fit properly. I would like to see your neighbor.” (meh)
- The neighbor may not even exist. I want to concentrate on the patient in front of me. So I say, “I don’t know about your neighbor, but you can be confident that I will not let that happen with you. I am going to be with you every step of the way and I will not be satisfied until you are satisfied. I know how much hearing aids can improve your life, so I want you to get full benefit from them.”
So if you are ever interviewed by me, or anyone else, you have a crib sheet right here to refer to. Better yet, incorporate these beliefs into your daily work and you will be a better hearing care provider. After all, the answers are only as good as the follow-through.