Hearing for the Holidays

Stephen Hallenbeck, Au.DBy Steve Hallenbeck, AuD

As the winter holidays approach, many of the scenarios discussed in our marketing materials, (hectic family gatherings, competing signals of interest) occur in our patients’ daily activities.  This is a good opportunity for those of us fitting hearing instruments to leverage real world patient experiences to enhance fittings.  You can use the holidays to frame discussions related to benefits and expectations for both new and experienced patients.  For new patients, the holidays provide a wonderful testing ground of features during a trial period.  For existing patients, you have the opportunity to revisit existing settings to adjust, reinvigorate and reinstruct the patient about the great features within the devices.  Consider starting your counseling sessions by using pointed questions about the type of holiday activities your patients will be attending.  Find out if your patients plan to attend a family dinner, any travel plans, phone calls with distant family members or staying in and catching up on TV or movies.  The answers to these questions can help establish a connection between events in the near future that are problematic and how our hearing aids provide solutions.

Serve up the mashed potatoes because Binaural Directionality is a feature that has a holiday dinner written all over it.  As you know, Binaural Directionality, from a technical perspective, synchronously changes the microphone modes on each hearing aid to optimally match the acoustic scene.  The benefit to the end user is improved hearing in background noise and automatic access to these improvements.  For the new user, take the time to set the scene.  Begin by describing that all hearing aids will increase the loudness of sounds, and you want your patient to have access to all the sounds without arbitrarily boosting or cutting sounds.  Ask your patient to use the dinner table as a real world test ground for using the feature.  Additionally, reinforce that program 1 should manage the hearing aid settings to hear in background noise automatically and repeatedly tie the upcoming holiday events as the reason why they are using the hearing aids.

I know you’re thinking that seems like we’re just adding a little of mom’s stuffing to the usual description provided to patients.  With that in mind, take the time to dig a little deeper and figure out what your patient’s world is like during the holidays.  For example, sending a first-time user into a holiday dinner at my house would be tantamount to death by firing squad due to excessively loud noise levels.  We all know that comfort in background noise can be a difficult issue when trying to maximize audibility.  In these instances, the volume and noise reduction adjustments made possible by the Environmental Optimizer II can be translated into the real world experiences of a loud holiday party.  The conversation may ensue as follows:  “You say family parties usually get so noisy you have a hard time hearing yourself think.  The Verso instruments will detect how loud the family party is.  If the party gets very loud, the hearing aids will detect that and I’ve set the devices to turn the volume of the hearing aids down without you having to do anything.”  If comfort in noise is suspected to be an issue, you can proactively turn the volume sliders in some of the noise or speech in noise environments to help take the edge off in some of these more uncomfortably loud situations.  Again, the take home message is to use the immediate needs of your patients to reinforce how the hearing aids are intended to function.

What holiday dinner would be complete without some side dishes, the accessories.  Perhaps the holiday sporting events can spark a fundamental discussion on how a Unite TV works to deliver sound directly the hearing aids.  Within Global Audiology we have heard many reports of the Unite Mini Microphone being used as a portable TV streamer which can be placed closed to the TV or accept the line-in plug.  Also, let’s not forget about the mic-streaming balance options for patients.  As well, our previous discussion on comfort in noise can be easily contoured to describe how the Unite Remote Control can be used to adjust the devices in real time to improve comfort when listening.  Given that so many holiday listening situations can be improved through both our hearing aids and our accessories, it would be a missed opportunity to not revisit these ideas during the holiday season.

The holidays are always a time to reconnect with friends and family.  Whether you know it or not, your success and your patient’s success are built on re-establishing the connection provided by the process of hearing.  Use the events happening now or in the near future so that your patients can make the connection between the features available within the instruments and the benefits they should expect.  We hope that these tips can help improve your fitting and wish a very happy and healthy holiday season!

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