By Marie Vetter, Au.D, Chicago Hearing Services
When a person newly diagnosed with hearing loss is sitting in my office, there are many different responses that can occur. It can be negative or positive, a “let’s do this” attitude or an “it’s not that bad” mindset.
One question that often arises is “will these hearing aids actually work?” My goal and role as a professional and audiologist is to assure this patient that along with my expertise, an optimistic attitude, willing participation from the patient and appropriate fit technology, they will be successful!
So why does success with hearing aids vary among patients? This question can be partly answered with the use of Aural Rehabilitation (AR) or lack of use. Most audiologists tend to think of Aural Rehabilitation in a more traditional sense–lip reading, speech reading, and therapy. I’m here to present a different perspective and one that will help all of our patients be successful in overcoming their hearing loss.
In the AR class that I teach each Spring, we always start with the definition. Aural Rehabilitation (AR) is an ecological, interactive process that facilitates one’s ability to minimize or prevent the limitations and restrictions that auditory dysfunctions can impose on well-being and communication, including interpersonal, psychosocial, educational, and vocational functioning. Aural Rehab goals are to alleviate the difficulties related to hearing loss and to minimize its consequences.
I think of Aural Rehab as going beyond the fitting of the hearing aid. AR not only provides emotional support for the patient, but it also offers education about assertive listening devices (ALDs), information to optimize listening situations and specific resources in the area for the patient. AR supports the patient through their life so that they can live more stress free and optimally in this crazy world we live in.
As my experience has grown as an audiologist, one thing I have begun to notice is the overwhelming need of emotional support and overall life support for the patient. When we take a bit more time out of our busy schedules to let the patient vent about their frustrations, boast about their children or grandchildren, and cry about their struggles, we as audiologists are providing Aural Rehabilitation that goes far beyond lip reading and speech reading. It provides the patients with support, guidance, and empathy that will allow them to be more successful as hearing aid wearers, but also more committed patients who understand our role.
Next time you are sitting in your office getting ready to see a new patient, think about AR and go beyond fitting the hearing aid. Be an audiologist with empathy, passion, drive, educational resources, and most importantly be supportive. Sit and ask your patient how their day was, ask them something beyond how the hearing aids are working, and provide a safe place for that patient to open up. We went into audiology to help people, so let’s use all our tools and supportive counseling to enable all our patients to communicate more effectively, and hear those little moments we all take for granted.