"Continuing to function in the hearing world — seeing friends, going to the theater, working, being active and engaged with my family." "It implies some level of acceptance of the ‘circumstances’ but that you are able to adapt to them to live life as well as you can." "Part of living well with hearing loss is the ability of the patient to identify what is important and critical in their own life and how their hearing loss may be impacting their ability to participate in that particular activity." There is no simple answer to the question, “What does it mean to live well with hearing loss?” Living well with hearing loss means different things to different people. Each person’s experience of hearing loss is unique and the qualities that contribute to living well with hearing loss vary from individual to individual. But understanding each patient’s unique perspective on what “living well” means to them is critical to creating effective plans that let patients live the lives they want.
Simple Tool Helps to Answer a Complex Question
Nicky sees healthy communication as key to living well with hearing loss. She believes it is necessary to continue to educate people for both her own sake and the sake of the person she is communicating with, but still finds it frustrating when people suggest that she has “selective hearing.”
The More You Talk About It, the Easier It Becomes
To help hearing care professionals find a way to get to the heart of this question with their patients, Ida held a seminar series on the topic in 2010-11. The outcome of the collaborative effort – involving 75 audiologists from around the world - is Ida’s Living Well tool. The tool, simple in design and implementation, has proven powerful in its ability to help clinicians gain a clear picture of the communications situations that are relevant and important to “living well” for each patient with hearing loss. The tool enables hearing care professionals to bring patients’ perspective on their daily experience into the clinical setting and provides an effective person-centered framework for shared decision-making and goal setting. By selecting pictures that represent important communication situations, patients can express what is significant about a situation, identify communication strategies employed and describe possible challenges. Clinicians can reinforce effective communication strategies and begin to explore alternative strategies for difficult situations. The person with hearing loss and clinician can then jointly decide on new strategies to implement, set goals for improved communication and formulate a plan of action. “The success of the Living Well tool has been its ability to provide an innovative, person-centered approach to defining living well for a variety of patients in a range of clinical settings,” says Ida Institute Managing Director Lise Lotte Bundesen. “Research has shown the benefits of a positive, optimistic approach that focuses on helping people participate in activities rather than on impairments and disabilities. It is this approach that we implement in using the Living Well tool.”
What can you learn about your clients from Living Well?
- Their successes and difficulties communicating
- The important communication partners in their lives
- Their priorities and success criteria
- How to individualize your treatment plan for each patient
Ida has continued to build on the success of the Living Well tool to expand its potential for use to new user populations with new components and new user-friendly formats. Earlier this year, Ida introduced a photo pack of pictures targeted to situations relevant to teens and tweens. The new photo pack reflects the lives and experiences of young people who are too old to be pediatric patients, but who have different day-to-day communication situations than adults. As 2015 comes to a close, Ida is also excited to relaunch Living Well in an online format. The online format serves two purposes. First, it allows people with hearing loss to use the tool at home and complete the questions before their appointment. This easy online access frees up time in the appointment so that there is more time to discuss the chosen scenarios.
New Formats for New Audiences
Part of living well with hearing loss is the ability of the patient to identify what is important and critical in their own life.
A second benefit: the online tool places emphasis on completing the session with a communication partner, who in turn can be a valuable ally in helping the patient implement the strategies devised during the appointment. By addressing difficulties with a partner, Living Well brings an ally into the patient’s treatment from the very beginning. Engaging the communication partner in completing the Living Well tool helps to create a more comprehensive picture of the patient’s communication problems and at the same time, ensures that the communication strategies developed include significant people who contribute to and support a patient’s ability to live well with hearing loss.
Hearing loss, like people, is complex. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Successful aural rehabilitation is dependent upon patient involvement in recognizing, identifying and describing their problems; defining the objectives and evaluating, selecting and implementing the intervention program. This is the process that is activated with the Living Well tool. Experience has demonstrated that patients who receive hearing care services are capable of playing an active role in defining their problems and solving them. In fact, patients are not likely to participate in an intervention program that does not cater to their specific needs. And they are unlikely to implement a solution if they are not comfortable with the proposed intervention program.
Empowering People with Hearing Loss to Live Well
Because of Bill’s reluctance to seek professional help, he began to avoid all types of social contact. He grew withdrawn and became a different person. This transformation was clear to Bill’s partner Dallett, but Bill may not have realized the costs of not taking action and seeking help.
What Was a Growing Fear Has Been Assuaged
Many people with hearing loss are dissatisfied with their hearing solutions because their expectations of hearing aids are not met. By using the Living Well tool, hearing care professionals are helping clients to not only adjust their expectations but also to cope in situations that may be difficult but important for them to manage in easily. Living Well online sessions are saved as PDFs, so there is a record for the person with hearing loss and the clinician to refer back to and evaluate progress. They may find that certain strategies were more effective than others, and can thus adapt the successful strategies to different situations. “When you are looking at a topic as complex and multi-faceted as living well with hearing loss, you know that no matter how well you are doing, you can always do better,” says Lise Lotte. “By putting Living Well Online, we hope to broaden the use of this unique tool and increase the personalization of audiological care.”