Anthropology and Ethnography

In almost every aspect of life, there is a gap between what people say they do and what they really do. Audiology is no different. 

Since 2008, the Ida Institute has interviewed audiologists and patients about their work, their hearing losses, and reflections on their experiences in an effort to help close this gap. Through these insights, we hope to influence audiologists to reflect more closely on their practice, how they question their patients, 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 patient experience.

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.

Ideas Worth Hearing


Hairdressers Spot Hearing Loss

Educate hairdressers about hearing loss so they can strike up conversations with customers!

Risk Button

Risk Button and Noise Control

Equip portable media players with volume monitoring alerts at risky noise levels!

From the editor

Ethnography at Ida: Gaining Insights on the Culture of Audiology

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 audiologists and their patients to inspire reflection on living and working with hearing loss.

The ethnographic videos are crucial teaching tools that are unique to Ida. When Ida records and shares ethnographic videos, we are examining the culture that audiologists and people with hearing impairments 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 Anthropologist's Eyes

Ethnographic videos are not in the strictest sense “scientific research.” They do not draw scientific conclusions or define how audiologists are. Rather, they provide a glimpse of everyday practice in the clinic.  Through the films about their colleagues, audiologists have an opportunity to recognize elements of their own practice and find inspiration for overcoming professional and personal barriers to providing more patient-centered care. 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 & Development for the Ida Institute, has produced more than 70 of 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.

As a cultural anthropologist, Hans Henrik brings an experienced eye to the world of hearing care, combining the rigor of science with training in understanding culture and society to gain a better understanding of the health behaviors and healthcare delivery.

"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.

Anthropology, Ethnography and Audiology

Anthropology, in its broadest definition, is the study of humanity. It is logical that anthropology would be applied to patient centered care, thus bringing the human dynamics into healthcare. The methodologies that clinicians apply in their practices are all informed by something, either an office/clinic protocol, a time crunch, or simply habits that they have developed over the years. Anthropology helps us to identify these habits, and gives us the opportunity to discuss what is helpful and effective. 

What are the key elements of a good ethnographic video?

·         Transparency and the comfort of the interview subjects

·         Unique insight of personal and professional experiences

·         Fodder for reflection for the viewer

·         Identifies gaps between what the subjects say and what they do

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, not just within personal relationships, but in all social situations.

Clearer Insights, Better Understanding

Ida’s ethnographic videos give us insight into what happens in the clinic: How do audiologists work, how do patients behave in an appointment, and what can the audiologist in the room – as well as the ones watching at home – learn from the encounter? The ethnographic videos help to bring hearing healthcare practitioners closer to their patients.  Through interviews and observations, we discover aspects of patients’ 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.”