Hearing loss is about more than the technology associated with it, so it is important that people with hearing loss see the audiologist as more than the person who conducts the audiogram and fits the hearing aid. Getting out into the community is an opportunity to stress the importance of healthy hearing to people, help them understand how crucial it is to effective communication, and demonstrate how you can be an ambassador to better communication.
An audiologist’s work can no longer be confined to the clinic. In order to reach new clients, it is necessary to make yourself available in ways they wouldn’t expect. It might mean giving educational talks to school children or visiting a senior center to offer a free hearing screening. If the spirit of adventure grabs you, take inspiration from Australian Hearing, who have had great success with their National Bus Tour.
Go beyond the clinic
Building a network of professionals outside of audiology is also useful for public awareness and to help your clients get better care. By communicating to general practitioners, for example, that they should refer patients who seem to have difficulty hearing for a hearing screening, it will be possible to intervene earlier in a person's hearing loss journey.
Going beyond the clinic will help ensure the success of your current clients. Being diagnosed with a hearing loss requires a person to form a new sense of identity. The transition can be difficult, and the person with hearing loss and his or her family need to adjust to this change. Arranging Group meetings is a way to help people with hearing loss and their communication partners meet others who are experiencing the same things they are. There is an evidence-base for Group AR’s effectiveness, but few practices take advantage of this resource.
A new phase in life
People with hearing loss wishing to make connections beyond Group AR – or who simply prefer the comforts of their own homes – might prefer an online solution. You can set up a forum on your website, or a Facebook group to help your clients meet each other, share stories and advice, and exchange resources on both local and broader levels. Some people with hearing loss might be candidates for counseling beyond what you can offer as an audiologist. For many people with hearing loss and their communication partners, there is a lot of therapeutic benefit for them to gain simply by being around those who understand their exact experiences, as this article on Listening and Spoken Language explains.
You can also create a hub for shared stories from your clients, either in print or by videoing them with a phone or tablet to show new or pre-contemplative people with hearing loss. You can keep these shared stories and testimonials in your waiting room and on your website to give new and potential clients a point to relate to. Getting client viewpoints beyond the positive is important as well. Their feedback will help you make adjustments that benefit your clients, offer relevant services, and open you up to new opportunities based on their needs.
Awareness campaigns — such as Ida's Ideas Worth Hearing — are a great way to engage the community at large. By drawing attention to hearing loss, how it affects people, and how it can be prevented, you can provide valuable information and increase empathy in those without a hearing loss as well as encouraging those who do have a hearing loss. The hearing loss community is huge, but for someone with a recent diagnosis, it can be very lonely. By facilitating new connections that will stay with your clients after they leave your clinic, you are helping them to ease into a new phase of their lives. It will also remind them that even though this new phase may have challenges, they don’t have to take them on alone.