Embedding person-centered care in the first international standard for hearing aid management

By Sara Coulter

The Internal Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental organization that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products, services, and systems. Across the globe, regulators and governments count on standards issued by ISO to develop better regulations on everything from electric bike safety and sustainable farming practices to healthcare and medical devices. Thanks to the involvement of globally established experts, ISO standards provide a sound basis on which to build regulations that safeguard consumers and all users of products and services. 

ISO recently issued ISO 21388, the first international standard for hearing aid fitting management (HAFM). ISO 21388 provides a general framework for HAFM including the pre- and post-fitting stages, designed to make the fitting management more explicit and transparent. The aim is to achieve the best possible hearing rehabilitation through adequate knowledge, training, skills, and a systematic approach to hearing aid fitting in close collaboration with the client.

The Ida Institute was among the experts consulted during the development of the new standard and contributed substantial input on person-centered care to the formulation of the standards document.

“The inclusion of explicit and detailed person-centered principles in the first international standard for hearing aid fitting management is a major achievement for all those working to advance person-centered care in hearing health,” says Ida Managing Director Lise Lotte Bundesen. “Putting the person with hearing loss at the center of their own care and involving them in their own treatment is key to successful hearing rehabilitation.”  

Nikolai Bisgaard, Vice President, External Relations at GN ReSound, served on the expert committee that developed ISO 21388 over a three-year period. Bisgaard had already been involved in the development of the hearing aid fitting management standards for Europe, standards that formed the foundation for the new international standards. He is also deeply familiar with Ida’s work in person-centered care.

“I suggested we revisit the European standard to see what we could improve,” he says. “One of the things that I recommended as an enhancement was the addition of a section on person-centered care developed by the Ida Institute. We saw this new standard as a practical ‘cookbook’ for anyone wishing to set up a modern hearing rehabilitation system.”  

Søren Nielsen, President of the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) and President and CEO of Demant comments: “Even in times of high-tech medicine, any sustainably successful treatment relies on a set of traditional values, such as the respect towards and the involvement of the patient. International comparative studies on the success of hearing care treatment prove that the more a patient is actively involved and has a say in the fitting process, he or she tends to be more satisfied with the result: Acceptance of his or her hearing aids is higher, they are worn more hours throughout the day – overall, the patient experiences a higher quality of life. EHIMA therefore welcomes that person-centered principles are at the very core of the new ISO standard.” 

The new standard recommends that “person-centered principles and strategies for effective information sharing should be applied.” Listed are a number of principles on how to achieve this, corresponding to the six essential elements defined by the Ida Institute as the core components of person-centered counseling: Active listening, involvement of family and communication partners, reflective dialogue, empathy, consideration of the client’s individual needs and preferences, and shared decision-making. The standard also includes a section on supporting resources which references the Ida Institute. 

“ISO 21388 represents a major milestone in the development of standards for person-centered practices,” says Bundesen. “We are hopeful that the new international standards will increase awareness of the value of person-centered care and inspire more countries to incorporate person-centered care in their HAFM protocols.”