Hearing health advocate, Shari Eberts, shares 10 ways to improve the patient experience during that very important first visit.
The first audiologist appointment can be challenging for people with hearing loss. They may still be battling denial or stigma which may be keeping them from moving forward on their hearing loss journey.
In a blog article in 2019, I shared a patient wish list for that first audiology appointment. In today’s environment of hearables and new OTC devices, a person-centered approach to that first appointment (and each one thereafter) is even more critical.
See the updated list below.
10 ways to improve your patient’s first appointment
1. Acknowledge the patient’s hearing loss story. Ask us why we are there and listen to the answer. It will provide important details about our lifestyle and the types of communication situations that are most important to us. Your interest will set a positive tone for the appointment and create an honest working dialogue from the start.
2. Use communication best practices. Your patients are there because they cannot hear well. Treat them with respect by speaking clearly and at a moderate pace. Face them and keep your mouth uncovered. Train your office staff to do the same, in person and over the phone. Consider investing in a hearing loop system or other assistive listening technologies for your office to aid in communication if needed.
3. Practice person-centered care. Work to find solutions to your patients’ specific communication challenges, rather than simply amplification. Some clients may require assistance for hearing at work, others only socially. Involving the client in the development of the treatment plan creates buy-in and increases their motivation to use their devices.
4. Make your office hearing loss friendly. Many people with hearing loss miss their name being called, even in a small office. Taking the time to alert the patient personally demonstrates that you understand the challenges they face. Providing relevant reading material in your office including information about hearing loss support groups will let patients know they are not alone in their struggles.
5. Supply a written summary of the visit. Your patients may be missing important details but are too embarrassed to ask for a repeat. Include test results, what they mean and your recommendations for communication solutions. Providing this in writing will make it easier for patients to share it with their families and to refer back to it if questions arise.
6. Set realistic expectations. Everyone wants hearing aids to work like glasses – you put them on and suddenly your hearing is restored — but this is not the case. Explain the work that will be required from both the patient and the audiologist to get things working smoothly.
7. Embrace creativity. Hearing aids work well in many situations, but not all. Combining hearing aids with assistive listening devices will give your patients a broader toolkit they can access in problematic situations. In some case, traditional hearing aids may not be the right first step in a person’s hearing loss journey. If you suggest creative over-the-counter solutions, they will be back when additional help is needed.
8. Teach communication tips and tricks. Communication best practices like keeping your lips uncovered and facing the person with hearing loss may seem obvious to you but probably are not to someone new to hearing loss or their family. Small changes in behavior can have a big impact in making conversations more satisfying. Teach them what you know at that first appointment.
9. Invite the family. Family involvement will give you better insights into difficult communication situations from both sides and give you the opportunity to share best practice communication tips with everyone. Engaging the family in the creation of the treatment plan will also help build a support network where your patients need it most.
10. Recommend peer support. Many people with hearing loss start their journey alone. Suggest your clients seek out peer support in whatever form they prefer: in-person support groups, online social network groups or through books and other media about hearing loss. My book Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the operating manual Gael and I wish we’d had at the start of our hearing loss journeys.
Your impact on your client’s journey cannot be overstated. Follow these steps to create a true and lasting partnership with your patient from that very first encounter.
We invite you to read a previous blog article by Shari Eberts, What your client needs to hear after a hearing loss diagnosis.
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate, writer, and the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.