The Person-Centered Hearing Network on trust, the future, and new collaborations

By Judith Vonberg

How can we build trusting relationships in hearing care? What insights from the Future Hearing Journeys report can help us prepare for the future? How can we collaborate locally and globally to expand person-centered care (PCC)?

These were some of the questions tackled by the Person-Centered Hearing Network (PCHN) in a meeting on June 1, facilitated by the Ida Institute. Nearly all of the network’s 29 organizations were represented, including universities, patient associations, professional organizations, research institutes, and hearing care providers.

Our time zones stretched from Chicago, US, to Brisbane, Australia, but everyone came full of energy, ideas, and passion for our shared vision of a person-centered future in hearing care.

Looking to the future

Discussions in small groups on the future of hearing care and how Ida’s recent report can help network members prepare gave rise to concrete and thought-provoking proposals.

These included integrating the report’s insights into university curricula, using the findings to raise awareness about PCC outside the network, and kickstarting change management processes across stakeholder groups.

Next were small-group discussions on the issue of trust between and among stakeholders in hearing care, which emerged as an area of concern among all groups taking part in our Future Hearing Journeys research – professionals, people with hearing loss, industry, and academics.

Questions dominated the brainstorming at first: What do the different elements of trust – competency, fairness, transparency etc. – look like in practice, and is it different for clinicians and clients? What role do communication and messaging play in building or breaking trust? How do we bridge the disconnect between academics who deal in theory and practicing clinicians? How do you regain trust once it’s broken?

Building trust between stakeholders

Talk soon turned to tangible solutions.

“We could build trust between consumers and future audiologists by involving consumers more in the education of audiologists,” said one participant. That could involve inviting consumers to give guest presentations to students – something already happening at the University of Queensland – and be involved in the re-design of curricula.

Others suggested that clinicians can build trust with clients by talking less and listening more. Reflecting on her experiences as a parent, one participant said:

“The providers for my children that I trust the most are the ones that listen to me as a parent and trust me as a parent in what I’m seeing and what I think.

“So it’s not just about giving the information and proving that we know what we’re talking about. It’s establishing that open communication back and forth, which is such a critical part of PCC – acknowledging that we both bring something major to the table and here’s how we can work together for the benefit of the patient.”

Elsewhere, the focus was on marketing that presents hearing devices as a cure, which can later lead to mistrust when clients’ unrealistic expectations aren’t met.

“People are sold a device, they’re not necessarily sold the rehab,” said one person. “It puts the emphasis on the device and not the clinician, yet research suggests it’s the relationship with the clinician that has the biggest impact on the hearing outcome. Choosing your audiologist is the biggest thing, not choosing which hearing aid – so we need to redirect the emphasis.”

Starting journeys together

Collaboration, at a local and global level, was the focus of the final session – but it was also a theme throughout.

We all agreed that ongoing collaboration between and across stakeholder groups – including through the PCHN – will be vital to build and maintain trust, and prepare for future changes in hearing care.

“Trust is a journey,” said one participant, perfectly reflecting the challenging but exciting nature of our work together. Building trust, implementing PCC, and preparing for the future are not tasks that can ever be ticked off, but rather paths to be continually forged through unknown territory as we work and learn together.

We at Ida look forward to continuing existing journeys and starting new ones with our growing network of partners around the world.