As an audiologist, you deal with hearing aids every day. You are familiar with how they work, how to maintain them, and how to program them. You are likely knowledgeable on more than just the technical aspects of hearing aid use – you also understand that many patients have an emotional and mental adjustment period to using hearing aids as well.
On the other hand, when a patient comes in to be fitted with a hearing aid for the first time, they have probably never seen a hearing aid before. Everything you show them and talk to them about is completely new, and it can be a lot of information to handle at once. In fact, recent studies have shown that when information about hearing aids is delivered verbally, the hearing aid owner is typically unable to recall up to 65 percent of the information given.
In one recent study, researchers asked both hearing aid owners and hearing health care clinicians to identify what a new hearing aid owner needs to learn in order to properly use, maintain, and care for their hearing aids. Participants identified 111 different items, which were grouped into six categories:
- Daily hearing aid use
- Hearing aid maintenance and repairs
- Learning to come to terms with hearing aids
- Communication strategies
- Working with your clinician
- Advanced hearing aid knowledge
When asked to rate the importance of these categories, wearers and clinicians ranked each category as similarly important – with the exception of advanced hearing aid knowledge, which clinicians ranked as much less important than the other categories. Based on the hearing aid users’ responses, the proper approach may be for a clinician to ask a new hearing aid owner how much advanced information they would like and then tailor their instruction to the owner’s desires.
There are additional steps you can take as a clinician to ensure that the hearing aid owner receives all of the information they need. You can ask a patient how much detail they would like and check that they understand what you discuss with them. Provide the patient with simple, written information they can refer to following the appointment.
As you consider what you can do to improve communication with and instruction for new hearing aid users, it may be valuable to conduct an evaluation. You may want to send your patients a survey in the weeks and months following their initial appointment to assess whether they learned and retained important information on using and maintaining their hearing aids. This can help you to identify gaps in their knowledge, which you can fill in for them and be more aware of for future patients.
As you assess your patients’ knowledge and skill, it may also be worthwhile to note needs and abilities that can change over time. For example, some hearing aid users may experience cognitive decline, poor eyesight, or limited finger dexterity over time. These issues can be addressed as they arise.
With these tips and evaluation points in mind, you can better meet the needs of new hearing aid users and help them adjust to their new devices. For more information about helping your hearing aid patients manage their devices, we welcome you to contact us today at AudiologyPlus.