For every person with hearing loss, is there a best ‘type’ of audiologist somewhere out there? The best possible match of a consumer’s needs and a professional’s personality, skills, and service?
In my opinion, yes. If the hearing loss stars are aligned, the match will happen soon after a client first reaches out for hearing help. If not, it might take some perseverance, trial-and-error, and self-awareness until bingo, the right match.
Audiologists can help shorten the process by learning what many people with hearing loss are looking for and meeting those needs in their practice. And from where I sit, it’s not rocket science.
My “great clinician” checklist
I’ve been lucky. Only once in my almost 50 years of interacting with audiologists have I thought, “That certainly didn’t go very well.” I’ve since realized that this professional and I were unlucky enough to intersect on our individual ‘bad mood days.’
So, reflecting on all the passionate and committed practitioners I’ve worked with, do I know what makes an audiologist the best one for me?
Yes, I think I do – and I’m not the only person with hearing loss to have this conviction. It’s that compassionate, articulate clinician who goes beyond the hearing aid to help create communication success in their client’s life.
But what does that look like in practice?
- Seeing accreditations and diplomas on your office wall. This is strangely reassuring.
- A professional who is not a slave to what they were taught in audiologist school. Academic training is crucial, the foundation for your clients’ success – but only if you don’t sit across from me believing your opinion is the only one that counts in our relationship. I adore seeing my audiologist stretch to embrace and offer new ideas. It inspires me. Hearing aids are often pivotal to communication success, but other strategies are necessary too, including, for many people, a new mental approach.
- An expert assessor of my hearing ability, who realizes that I’m also an expert – on how hearing loss impacts all corners of my life, even if I have trouble articulating it. (But you can help with that.)
- A hearing professional who can paint the Big Picture. You help me see the reality of the hearing loss journey, including the current limitations of science. You also help me dream bigger and go higher with technical possibilities that can change my daily life, now.
- Someone who uses clear speech and other good communication tactics. I am firm on this. If it takes too much work to understand you, we’re done. If you have doubts, ask your colleagues for feedback. Is your speech nice and crisp? Are you speaking too loudly, softly or exaggeratedly? Do you keep talking as you turn your head? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, fix it.
- An expert technician who can explain what you’re doing and who doesn’t leave green goop in my hair after taking an ear mold.
- An innovator who understands the power of peer support. Connecting clients can give them mutual benefits that are outside your expertise and lived experience. It’s a win-win all around.
- A clinician who may not understand or specialize in tinnitus, but who wouldn’t dare suggest to a client that there is “nothing to be done and you just have to live with it.” My audiologist reached out to tell me of an eight-week mindfulness course that was life-changing.
There is of course one exception to this specific profile! In a hearing aid emergency, any audiologist who can speedily fix my problem is my hero.
But otherwise, am I asking too much? No, because I have met many of these audiologists. Perhaps they are even becoming the new standard.
A win for me and for you
When I do meet the person who is right for me, I feel it – a certain, almost immediate comfort, a tingle telling me this might become a long-term relationship.
And it’s usually for a simple reason. Yes, I can tick off everything on the list above, but I also feel welcomed and listened to. You incorporate my fears, hopes, and needs into a go-forward plan that works in my real world of communication – out there.
If you can do this – and again, I’m far from unique in looking for it – you’re the right audiologist for me (and perhaps for many others). My path will be easier, more successful. (If you turn out to also be the world’s best mold-maker and hearing-aid fitter, I have truly struck gold!)
And you will be victorious too. I’ve been selfish in describing only what I get out of this optimal client-professional relationship. But whatever attracted me to you will be just as engaging for others. Because you listen to your clients and work with them in partnership, they and the people they recommend you to will be yours for as long as you want.
Confidential note to my two wonderful current audiologists: If you’re reading this, you know I love working with you and I’m not going anywhere. And you better not be, either.
Learn how to deliver the kind of care that Gael Hannan describes through our online courses, available for free in the Ida Learning Hall. Or explore our free, practical tools that can help you start implementing a person-centered approach today.