Being an audiologist, there are few things I rue more than a client coming in with a lost or damaged hearing aid. Given that I lack an advanced degree in engineering and the necessary equipment to solder circuits and remold plastics, it is rare that the hearing aid left the clinic restored to its former glory. In the beginning of my career, I would be fuming… how irresponsible! Are they using the cat`s food bowl as a hearing aid dryer? It took a couple of years to realize that in some ways, the loss or damage of a hearing aid can actually be a wonderful opportunity if handled properly.
Yes, you read that right: good can come out of a patient losing a hearing aid! Think of this as an opportunity to re-evaluate the client`s needs and re-establish the necessity and convenience of your services.
The task of processing a lost or damaged hearing aid should include: an analysis of the circumstances it was lost or damaged in, the fitting of a loaner hearing aid, positive reinforcement, and value-add convenience services. That was a mouthful, right? Let`s break the process down into pieces, so you can see the benefits of these in action.
Every time a hearing aid is lost or brought in for repair, you as the clinician should have a basic understanding of what happened. This can be easily assessed by asking the client to explain the situation, and can be done by you, a technician, or a receptionist. This is important not only to understand what damage the hearing aid has, but also if this is likely to occur again in the future, if the client is at risk of injury or vulnerable to future injury, is experiencing abuse or neglect, or even just needs reinstruction on how to use and care for their hearing aids. While this may sound like an enormous task, often times it will simply give you more information about your client and give you the opportunity to showcase your caring bedside manner. If there are concerns about the client`s cognitive functioning or ability to take care of themselves, consider performing a quick cognitive screener.
Make them smile
So now you have an understanding of what happened to the hearing aids and your client might be ashamed or embarrassed or frustrated. Now is the perfect time to add levity to the situation. Talk about light-hearted experiences clients have had with lost or damaged hearing aids. Most people love stories about dogs or babies or cats getting at hearing aids, cars running over hearing aids. Let them know that these things can happen (hooray for loss and damage warranties!), they have done the right thing by coming to see you, and you will do everything you can to get them back up and running. Some clinics will even display these stories in their office or feature a monthly contest for the wildest loss or damage story. Just remember to get written consent from the client before doing this!
Offer a loaner
When hearing aids require service at the manufacturer it is important to offer a loaner device. Imagine telling someone who wears glasses that they have to go several days without them while they are in for service. The nerve! It is vital to have a selection of demo hearing aids available in house for instances such as these. Not only does it preserve continuity of hearing ability when the client does not have a back-up set of hearing aids, but it also is a fantastic opportunity for clients with older hearing aids to experience the magic of an in-home trial of new technology!
Go the extra mile
Finally, if possible, offer to ship the repaired hearing aids from your office to the clients home. This is an additional level of convenience and service that many clinics are unwilling to offer. When the hearing aids arrive at the clinic, restore the programs, do your listening check, and then ship them directly to the clients home. If they have your loaner device, include a prepaid package they can use to send them back, or allow them to drop off the hearing aids later in the week. If for whatever reason the client needs to return to the clinic to pick up the hearing aids, make the process as easy as possible. Have them scheduled for an appointment or have the hearing aids labelled and ready for pick-up with fresh batteries at the ready. Some clinics will include a caring note thanking the client for taking care of their hearing aids.
Now it`s your turn…
Whatever you decide to do, it`s important to have a well-established workflow to handle repairs and lost devices. This ensures clients receive the highest standard of care and prevents clients from leaving your office and visiting the competitor down the road. Remember: a lost or damaged hearing aid is an excellent opportunity to further build a relationship with your clients and uncover their unmet needs. Finally, it re-enforces that you are the best hearing care provider in town and gives them a chance to rave about your service to friends and family. Now go out and wow your clients!
In this AudiologyOnline article, Dr. Pamela Souza outlines the importance of administering cognitive assessments in the clinic.