When my audiologist retired a year ago, I was devastated. We had invested a lot of time together to find the right programming for my hearing aids and had built a strong working relationship. She was caring, knowledgeable, and always willing to help. She understood my hearing challenges and partnered with me on my communication priorities. How could I replicate this positive dynamic with someone new?
As time passed, I felt more confident. I was no longer an inexperienced hearing aid wearer and knew what I required from an audiologist and how to ask for it. This included many of the components of person-centered care I highlighted in my recent blog series on this topic. I was looking for an audiologist who:
- Listens to my particular hearing needs and focuses my care around those.
- Runs a hearing loss friendly office with a receptionist I can understand.
- Champions new technologies in both hearing aids and assistive listening devices.
- Believes best practice communication tools are just as important as technology.
Finding the right person was still difficult. I checked online listings for audiologists in my area, but the metrics presented did not include person-centered care. I reached out to my local hearing loss friends, but many were not satisfied with the care they received and suggested I look elsewhere.
My audiologist recommended a few of her colleagues and this worked well. My audiologist practiced person-centered care and her suggestions included other audiologists who shared this philosophy. Thankfully I am now working with an excellent audiologist who is responsive to my needs.
Important characteristics when looking for an audiologist
The right audiologist is hard to find, and may not be the same for everyone. Each person has a distinct hearing journey, a unique set of communication challenges and their own hearing loss baggage. Comfort level with technology also likely varies. Considering the following factors in your search will help you find the audiologist that is perfect for you.
- Personality fit: You will work closely with this person for many years to come. If you don’t communicate well, partnering will be a problem.
- Location/Hours: Ideally your audiologist has a convenient office location and flexible operating hours. Once you are settled into your hearing devices, you may not be visiting often, but if a problem arises, you will want easy access.
- Robust Product Offering: Many hearing aid brands offer excellent products, but the nature of the sound quality and available programming features varies with each. Some brands work better than others for different people. Make sure your audiologist offers a diversity of choices so you can find the product that works best for you.
- Ethical Business Practices: Reputable audiologists will let you try a new pair of hearing aids or other device risk-free for at least 30 days. If yours does not, find someone else.
- Person-Centered Care: Last but not least, find an audiologist that practices person-centered care. This means your audiologist will work to understand your individual communication challenges and partner with you to solve them. This is the hardest metric to assess, but Ida Institute’s new Inspired by Ida program hopes to make this easier.
A “Good Housekeeping Seal” for person-centered care
Inspired by Ida is “a free program from the Ida Institute that aims to advance person-centered care in audiology. The program offers training to practitioners and clinics in how to apply person-centered methods and tools. By completing the program, they receive the Inspired by Ida label — a benchmark of quality that signals their dedication to person-centered care.” Continuing education is required annually to maintain their status in the program.
The Inspired by Ida seal is a great way for consumers to identify audiologists that prescribe to a person-centered care philosophy. Audiologists in the program can highlight the seal on marketing materials and on their websites. Seeing one of these will give consumers confidence they are searching for care in the right place.
Inspired by Ida is also an innovative way for audiologists to learn more about person-centered care — a philosophy that is not always emphasized in the traditional audiological curriculum. Many audiologists would like to practice person-centered care, but may not know exactly what that means or how to achieve it. This free training will take them further along that path.
For the program to have impact, wide adoption is needed. Encourage your audiologist to learn more about Inspired by Ida.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, an online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.