Ethnography and hearing care

In almost every aspect of life, there is a gap between what people say they do and what they really do. Hearing care is no different. 
Since 2008, the Ida Institute has interviewed hearing care professionals about their work and clients about their hearing losses in order to get reflections on their shared experiences in an effort to help close this gap. Through these insights, we hope to encourage hearing care professionals to reflect more closely on their practice, the conversations they have with their clients, and the environment they create for themselves and those that visit their practice. 
The more attention paid to the details of our everyday interactions, the easier it becomes to individualize the hearing care journey.



Video Library

Ethnographic Films

Ethnographic Films

These films depict real-life situations at the clinic and in the homes of persons with hearing loss.
Clinical Reenactments

Clinical Renactments

Interpretations of real ethnographic footage, reenacted by actors to protect the privacy of participants.
Parent Perspective

Parents' Perspectives

Insight into parents' needs and experiences following their children's diagnoses with hearing loss.

Ethnographic videos in education

Our ethnographic videos illustrate real clinical scenarios. Dr. Patricia McCarthy, Doctor of Audiology Program Director at Rush University, explains how she uses Ida's ethnographic videos as teaching tools in her courses to give students an opportunity to analyze clinical encounters.

From the editor

Ethnography at Ida: Gaining insights on the culture of hearing care

There is a good chance that if you have visited the Ida Institute’s website before, you have seen one of our ethnographic videos. Since 2008, Ida has used these compelling windows into the world of clinicians and their clients to inspire reflection on living and working with hearing loss.

The Ida Institute's ethnographic videos are a unique and vital teaching tool. When Ida records and shares ethnographic videos, we are examining the culture that hearing care professionals and people with hearing loss live and work in. Because we see people at home, at work, at school, and among family and friends, we see what challenges they come up against, how they adapt, and how they thrive. These videos show more than interviews alone can.

Seeing ourselves through an ethnographer's eyes

Ethnographic videos are not meant to draw scientific conclusions or define hearing care professionals' behaviors. Rather, the videos provide a glimpse of everyday practices in a clinic. By watching films of  their colleagues, clinicians can recognize elements of their own practices and take inspiration on how to breakdown professional and personal barriers to providing a more person-centered approach. By observing the field of hearing care as outsiders, they are able to gain insight they otherwise could not find from within.

Hans Henrik Philipsen, PhD, chief consultant on innovation and development for the Ida Institute, has produced more than 70 ethnographic videos in the UK, Denmark, the United States, and South Africa. He has recorded sessions in clinics, visited patients in their homes, and talked to audiologists, clinic managers, and teachers of the Deaf.

"In a Pickle" is the first ethnographic film made by Ida. The film focuses on an older woman, who is having difficulty adjusting to her hearing aids. It illustrates the importance of flexibility and patience on the part of the audiologist, in order for them to best help patients cope with their own frustrations.
“Ethnographic videos have become a natural component or a signature move we make in almost everything we do at Ida,” says Hans Henrik. “They allow us to explore and create an innovative understanding of the human dynamics associated with hearing loss in a unique way,” says Hans Henrik.

What are the key elements of a good ethnographic video?

  • Identifies gaps between what the subjects say and what they do
  • Transparency and comfort of the interview subjects
  • Unique insight into personal and professional experiences
  • Points of reflection for the viewer
  • Hans Henrik is fond of recounting the story of Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, the founder of modern ethnography, because it so clearly illustrates what Ida tries to accomplish with our ethnographic videos. Malinowski was interred on the Trobriand Islands during World War I. During this time, he conducted the then-revolutionary participatory observation fieldwork by going out and observing the indigenous population of the islands, seeing how they lived their lives, and comparing it to how they told him they spent their time in previous interviews. This understanding of the difference between what people say they do and what they actually do is central to how Ida helps further patient centered care. “Everyone always wants to do their job better, whatever their job may be,” notes Hans Henrik. “Sometimes it takes watching yourself or your fellow clinicians on video to understand where there is room for improvement in your own practice.”

    "A Sense of Irritation" tells the story of Gill and her husband John, and how he helps her cope with her hearing loss. It offers valuable insight into the importance of communication partners in relationships and social situations. This video also illustrates how communication partners provide clinicians with information that a person with hearing loss might not think of themselves.

    Clearer insights, better understanding

    Ida’s ethnographic videos give us insight into what happens in the clinic: How do hearing care professionals work, how do people with hearing loss behave in an appointment, and what can the professional in the room learn from the encounter? Ida's ethnographic videos help to bring hearing healthcare practitioners closer to their clients. Through interviews and observations, we discover aspects of people’s hearing journeys, their personal experiences, and coping mechanisms that might not be covered in appointment. 

    “We knew from the beginning that the Ida Institute would have to take a unique approach to looking into how people live well with their hearing loss,” says Ida Managing Director Lise Lotte Bundesen. “Our ethnographic videos powerfully convey the emotions triggered by hearing loss and help fight the “lab coat syndrome” that detaches healthcare professionals from the people they treat by bringing the human dynamics back into the field.”