Running Group Aural Rehabilitation is a worthwhile investment of time and resources. In order to make the most of it, take a moment to prepare for a successful Group AR program.
Groups can be scheduled as frequently as once a week or month, or a couple of times each year. Ongoing groups give participants the opportunity to develop relationships, have ongoing discussions, and work through feelings.
Choose a time when most people will be able to attend. For example, mid-afternoon on weekdays won't be good for people who work during the day. If you plan to include primarily retirees in your group make sure the timing of your meetings doesn’t interfere with popular social or recreation events in your community.
Ask yourself: Is your clinic the best location? Does it have enough space for a group? If need be, explore whether you can rent a space for your group meetings. The location should be easily accessible for the people who will be coming. Is the building easy to find? Is it accessible to people who use wheelchairs, canes, or service dogs? Is there adequate parking or public transportation nearby?
If possible, use a room with good acoustics and one large enough for everyone to sit around a round table. Both are important factors in preventing or reducing communication problems.
Refreshments can go a long way in terms of attracting people to the meetings, encouraging socialization, and holding the group’s attention. You might consider budgeting for some snacks or beverages.
A Group AR session often requires emotional involvement from the participants. You can use the guided imagery exercise described in Session Five to allow participants to unwind and round off each session.
How many sessions, and what topics?
Consider what fits into your availability and what topics will be most relevant for your group members. The Group AR Guide includes seven sessions, and you can either follow the full program or pick and choose among the sessions. Browse the sessions for inspiration but don’t limit yourself to these topics. Ask clients what topics they would find most interesting. Decide how many times the group will meet, and how long each session will be. Plan for sessions to be between 45 minutes and one hour long.
Hearing assistive technology and services are important for creating an inclusive event so that everyone can participate, regardless of how well they hear. Assistive listening technology and services bridge the gap between the listener and the sound source.
Using hearing assistive technology like a telecoil, hearing loop, FM, or infrared system also makes it easy to identify who is talking. Passing the microphone from one person to another prevents people from talking over one another and helps them keep up with the discussion.
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) can be especially helpful for people with significant hearing loss. CART is a hearing assistive service where a professional transcribes spoken text and sound into words displayed on a projector screen, laptop, or mobile device.
Using technology and services also helps group members get acquainted with resources they can utilize throughout their lives to improve their ability to stay engaged despite difficult communication situations.
How big should the group be?
A group size of eight or ten people is ideal. This generates a good amount of input for discussions, and ensures everyone has a chance to contribute. Nametags are a good idea for everyone to wear throughout all sessions, no matter the size of the group.
Yes! The cooperation of both people with hearing loss and communication partners is necessary for preventing and reducing communication problems. In Group AR spouses and family members can learn how to better support communication goals.
You can choose to have a separate group for people who have hearing loss and another group for their communication partners, or include both in the same group. Decide which will work best for you.
In addition to inviting your clients and their communication partners, here are a few suggestions that can help you get the word out to your community:
- Post announcements on social media and online message boards
- Find out if your local community newspaper has a free community events calendar and submit information about your group
- Hand out brochures at local health related events and fairs
- Hang fliers in community centers
- Offer to speak about hearing loss and treatment at a variety of different venues: Retirement communities, libraries, civic organizations, etc.
Country regulations and the rules of insurance programs vary greatly. Before you begin, verify whether you can be compensated by insurance programs for group aural rehabilitation services. Because audiology is often considered a diagnostic profession, in many countries audiologists do not receive insurance payments for aural rehabilitation services such as group. Speech-language pathology, on the other hand, is more often considered a therapeutic profession and eligible for compensation. If you do not have a speech-language therapist on your staff, consider teaming up with someone from your network in order to provide your clients with access to this valuable service.
Determine whether you will charge participants a fee. This is important information to include when you advertise the group. Take into account what it costs you to run the program (e.g. room rental fees, time used to prepare, time away from individual appointments), whether participants can be reimbursed by insurance programs for any fees you may charge, and consider the economic returns of a successful group (e.g. greater acceptance of hearing aids, reduced return rates, more satisfied clients, client loyalty, increased word-of-mouth referrals, etc.).