Last summer, an older relative of mine agreed to get her hearing checked. She was accompanied by her sister, and after the appointment, I asked how it went. I was expecting to hear all about her diagnosis and then recommendations for hearing help, but instead I got this report:
The audiologist asked the patient, “Who do you communicate most with?” The patient replied with a nod toward her sister, “She and I have communicated nonstop for more than 80 years!” The audiologist laughed and told the sister, “Well, then you need to be part of this appointment.”
In addition to the usual testing methods, the audiologist asked the sister to say ordinary sentences and words while standing behind the patient, to simulate a typical communication challenge. The patient struggled to repeat what she heard/didn’t hear and became a bit upset. The sister empathized: it’s been this way for awhile now. The patient might not have been very receptive to hearing help before, but her sister’s participation in the process made an impression: If hearing loss is interfering with “sister-ness,” then something needs to be done.
You may have already figured it out: the patient is my aunt, and her sister is my mother. They live far away, so it meant the world to me to learn that their audiologist valued family input, and in fact actively applied it to her patient care. It seems like such an obvious thing to do, but recent studies indicate that families are not always included in the conversation, much less the testing process. More thoughts on this “growth opportunity,” and the evidence supporting it, can be found here. If audiology care is not family-centered, then something needs to be done, yes?
Have you had a family member join you at your hearing appointments? How has it made a difference?
Kris English, PhD, is a Professor and an Interim School Director at the University of Akron/NOAC. She has written numerous books and chapters, and has presented over 300 workshops and papers in the US, the UK, Canada, Europe and Australia, primarily on the topic of counseling.
She served 10 years on the board of the Educational Audiology Association (President in 1997) and 5 years on the board of the American Academy of Audiology (President in 2009-2010). She created and writes for a web forum called AdvancingAudCounseling.com, and welcomes submissions from students, faculty and practitioners.