Soundfair: Educating, advocating, and telling stories

By Judith Vonberg

This is the third in a series of interviews where we hear from the 30 members of the Person-Centered Hearing Network (PCHN), a collaboration of organizations across five continents with a shared vision of universal person-centered hearing care.

Soundfair works with people with hearing loss and the communities around them to educate, advocate, and bring meaningful change across Australia. 

Acting CEO Jessica Vitkovic explains how Soundfair is redesigning hearing health services to embrace the whole person, and why storytelling is so important to the organization. 

How do you and your organization work towards making hearing care more person-centered?

A key feature of Soundfair’s strategy is to catalyze change in the hearing sector so that services are person-centered and encompass the whole person – people are more than just ears and hearing conditions require more than just devices. 

We do this in several ways. In partnership with those with lived experience of hearing conditions, we innovate and implement new services centered on their needs and preferences. We also promote and are involved in person-centered research and share our knowledge and skills. Finally, we collaborate with others to overcome stigma and systemic barriers by improving people’s access to hearing care that focuses on the whole person. 

The shared DNA across all our activities is a focus on storytelling – providing a space for the diverse voices of deaf and hard-of-hearing people to be listened to and acted on.

What three words would you use to describe your organization? 

Innovative. Empathetic. Collaborative.

Tell us about a project you’re working on that excites you.

Our Connections Model and person-centered outcomes dashboard. The Connections Model was born out of a human-centered design project that reimagined hearing health services so that they are truly whole-person and person-centered focused. 

The model provides two core functions: (1) Helping individuals navigate the hearing care system and provide independent advice; and (2) working in partnership with individuals to build plans focused on the medical, social, and psychological impacts of hearing conditions that matter most to them.

Individuals are then connected with the professionals and services that can empower them to achieve their goals. Hearing tests are also administered alongside this process. 

We have now moved from concept towards trialing the model and we’re excited to evaluate it using the outcomes dashboard we are developing using the grant awarded to us by the Ida Institute

The grant is allowing us to test the feasibility, usability, and utility of an outcome ‘dashboard’ that routinely tracks person-centered care experiences alongside other success measures in a hearing rehabilitation organization. 

It aims to measure and display a range of outcomes important to clients, clinicians, and managers to encourage the measurement of person-centered outcomes so that hearing care professionals and organizations have the information needed to improve person-centered practices.

Why did your organization join the Person-Centered Hearing Network?

Soundfair’s mission – a fair world for people with hearing conditions – is so aligned with the Ida Institute that we welcome the ability to partner with them and collaborate with other like-minded people/organizations to ensure person-centered care is a reality in Australia and beyond. 

What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for hearing care in the next decade?

Changing the system from a biomedical model, where the individual is responsible for fixing their communication challenges, to a social model of disability, where the responsibility for inclusion rests with society, in an ever-changing period of technological advancement – this is both the greatest challenge and an excellent opportunity.

In one sentence, what is your ideal vision of hearing care in the future?

Accessible and culturally sensitive, whole-person, person-centered services that enable a fair world for people with hearing conditions: fulfilling, accessible, inclusive, and respectful.

Image: The Soundfair team