Each client that comes into your office is unique. This may seem like stating the obvious, but each person will have a different hearing loss, a different lifestyle, and different communication needs. In order for your clients to come away with a positive experience, their individual concerns need to be addressed. This can be done from the booking phase or with the intake forms; give your clients a place to write down when they book their appointment online or when they are filling out their intake forms to describe how and when they are having difficulty. Asking the right questions before and during your appointment will help meet the client's individual needs. Remember, most people visit an audiologist to solve a hearing problem, not to find out why they have a hearing loss. They are likely to be more interested in strategies – and perhaps why you are suggesting the strategies – than an explanation of what the audiogram says.
The audiologist's expanding role
Moving away from the purely technical approach of audiology is just one way of preparing yourself for the future. The role of the audiologist isn't going away, but it is changing and expanding in different ways. It will require a new flexibility — including using tele-health — a willingness to utilize new technologies in and out of the session to aid your clients, and of course, listening closely to your clients' objectives so you can deliver the services they need and want. The counseling you're already doing is going to becomes more central to the appointment, and will require you to go beyond the appointment to tailor an effective treatment plan for your client.
It may help to rethink the Patient Journey. Normally, our focus is the middle of the journey – the preparation and action phases – where people with hearing loss are introduced to treatment plans as well as technological and communication strategies. Where we should shift the focus to is the beginning and end of the journey the pre-contemplation/contemplation and the maintenance/relapse phases. This will empower the client to self-manage in the later phases of their journey.
The new hearing loss journey
In these complex phases, the audiologist has to assess client readiness for action, and later reassess the strategies used to find lasting solutions to the client’s communication difficulties. More attention needs to be focused on helping people with hearing loss understand that they do have a hearing loss and how it effects them and those around them. After they have been given technological and communication strategies, clients will need help reinforcing the behavior that will help them cope with their hearing loss. If the strategies aren’t working for the client, or if they relapse, the audiologist needs to offer support and alternative solutions. For clients that have found success with their hearing technology and communication strategies, it is important to keep in touch to help them maintain that level of success as their needs continue to change throughout their lives.
As each person with hearing loss is unique and has unique needs, it makes sense for audiologists to take a unique approach to how they treat each client. In the above video, Ida faculty member Harvey Abrams explains PARM – Progressive Audiologic Rehabilitation Management – his plan for customizing care for each client and adapting plans as their needs change.
As we often talk about in the person-centered approach, the strategies offered to a client need to go beyond just technological. Create a picture for the client about how they can live well with their hearing loss outside of technology through communication strategies, social and psychosocial options.
Creating a picture
Remember that your clients have chosen you to be their audiologist because they believe you are the right fit for them. Reaffirm their trust by being flexible and adjusting your care to suit their needs. The feedback you get through your sessions and through your website will help you assess any changes your clients would like to see.