Audiologist, Richard Neale, shares how the world of coffee can teach us a few lessons about how we can better meet the hearing needs of our different clients.
There’s nothing quite like the smell of coffee in the morning. Whether your caffeine hit of choice is an espresso, cappuccino, flat white, filter or even instant coffee, it is the way many of us start our day. And that got me thinking about how coffee and hearing aid clients are quite alike.
The world of coffee is hugely diverse but put simply it can be split into three categories. Whether the coffee beans have been roasted dark, medium, or light.
Dark roasts – the easy-to-satisfy client
A dark roasted coffee spends more time in the roaster. This means extracting all the best bits from the coffee bean (that make it taste amazing!) is easier to do.
It means that how finely the coffee is ground, the temperature of the water used for brewing and the barista technique doesn’t have to be ‘spot on’ to get a great and consistent tasting cup of coffee. For those reasons, many of the major coffee chains use dark roasted coffee.
We see this pattern in some hearing aid clients too. These are the ones who adopt hearing technology easily. Their needs are met without too much additional input from the clinician beyond their first fitting appointment.
Often, these clients score well in speech-in-noise tests. This means that the level of technology fitted, whether premium or essential, is less important. If the basics are right, then the client is likely to be satisfied and perform well.
With a patient who identifies closely with a dark roast, it is important to consider:
Is there more performance to be gained? – Even if they are doing well, assistive listening devices or a change in level technology could add to the patient’s experience and overall satisfaction.
Medium roasts – the more complex client
These coffee beans spend less time in the roaster. Because of this, it takes a bit more effort and precision to get a great and consistent tasting cup of coffee. The coarseness of the coffee grind, the temperature of the water and the barista technique all matter more in achieving success – a great tasting coffee. When this is achieved, the coffee is often more complex and richer in taste than its dark roasted cousin.
Most hearing aid clients will fall into this category. Maybe they live slightly busier lifestyles, have a more challenging hearing loss with reduced auditory processing. These clients often take that little bit more clinical time and effort but can also be the most satisfied clients when everything aligns.
With a client who is like a medium roasted coffee, it is worthwhile to:
Spend a little more time digging deeper into their needs. Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI) is my tool of choice.
Think about your verification methodology. Consider first fit versus in situ versus real-ear measurements.
Think of additional technology features. Premium technology unlocks additional features such as StereoZoom 2.0 and SpeechSensor for better speech understanding in noise.1 These features may be what is needed to ‘extract’ that extra performance required.
Consider accessories for a whole hearing solution. For example, could a TV connector or Roger™ microphone technology make a difference for this client?
Light roasts – the finicky client
Unsurprisingly, light roasted coffee spends the least time in the roaster. This makes it much harder to extract the coffee goodness from them.
For light roasted coffee, all the small details matter. You must grind the beans to the perfect size; the water temperature must be perfect; and the barista technique has to be executed to a high standard.
Even for the best baristas, it will take some educated trial and error before finding the perfect combination to get the best out of a lightly roasted coffee. But when they do, the coffee is more complex, fruity, and interesting than its counterparts.
Clients who fall into this category often require a lot more clinic time and attention to detail is very important. They often have more challenging audiograms and/or poor auditory processing.
Maybe they work or have very active and acoustically demanding social lives. All too often it is easy to blame the technology or patient expectations if things don’t go perfectly the first time. But like a first attempt at brewing a lightly roasted coffee, we just haven’t found the perfect combination yet. But when everything lines up, the results are often astonishing, with clients very highly satisfied and the ones you are most proud of.
Some things to consider for patients who fall into the light roast category:
Get specific when it comes to patient needs. Don’t settle for, “I don’t hear well in a restaurant.” Ask questions like, “What restaurant have you found these difficulties in?” …”Who are you with?”… “Who was the most challenging to hear?”… “How did it make you feel?”… “What would success look like in that situation?”
Use Real Ear Measurements for verification where appropriate. Ideally, use TargetMatch to get the most consistent results.
Get speech-in-noise test results. QuickSIN speech-in-noise test is a personal favourite of mine.
Know your technology. Get into specific features and how they help specific environments. For example, Speech Enhancer in Phonak Lumity 90s can reduce listening effort by up to 20% for communication from a distance.2
Always think about a whole hearing solution. Roger™ On is very often an excellent choice for clients who are often in challenging listening situations, providing evidence-based improvements in conversations in group environments.3
Offer listening practice. Consider online auditory training programs, such as those found in the HearingSuccess portal, so your clients can improve their auditory skills through structured, repetitive listening exercises.4
All coffee is made to be enjoyed, but sometimes a little more time, effort and expertise are required to get the best out of the coffee. The same is true with our clients. Some perform well from first fit, and others we need to dig a little deeper and use our clinical expertise and premium technologies to unlock their hearing potential.
For reference, my current coffee of choice is the Indonesian (medium roast) from Boona Boona5 based in Bristol, United Kingdom.
To learn more about the features in Phonak Lumity, we invite you to visit our product pages.
1. Woodward, J. Lesimple, C. and Latzel, M. (2022) New implementation of directional beamforming configurations show improved speech understanding and reduced listening effort. Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from Phonak Evidence Library.
2 Latzel, M., Lesimple, C., & Woodward, J. (2022). Speech Enhancer reduces listening effort and increases intelligibility for speech at a distance with and without visual cues. Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from Phonak Evidence Library.
3. Thibodeau L. M. (2020) Benefits in Speech Recognition in Noise with Remote Wireless Microphones in Group Settings. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 31(6), 404–411
4. LeBeau, V. (2022). Benefits of online tools. Phonak Audiology Blog. Retrieved from https://audiologyblog.phonakpro.com/auditory-skills-training-benefits-of-online-tools/
5. Rich’s current favourite coffee https://boonaboona.co.uk/collections/coffee/products/indonesia-organic-coffee-beans