One of the primary reasons a patient visits an audiologist is because they have begun to notice a decrease in their ability to hear, understand, and generally communicate. As audiologists, one step in the process of counseling patients to use new hearing instruments is to tell them they must now re-learn how to listen as sounds are reintroduced to their auditory system.
We, as audiologists, should follow our own advice when it comes learning how to listen. We often sit with the patient, ask a battery of questions, note their answers, and follow a protocol of evaluation and treatment, seldom deviating from a “one size fits all” model. We may trick ourselves into thinking that we are individualizing treatment because our industry software chooses different hearing aid settings based on each patient’s audiogram.
If we want to be successful in providing the absolute best result for every patient we see, we must ourselves be dedicated listeners. The ability to become a skilled listener can be a challenge. Often practitioners are much too eager to close a sale than to take the time and put forth the effort to truly LISTEN to what our patients are saying/asking us.
What one patient says is “too loud” may not require the same fix as the next patient with the same complaint. We must not only ask general questions about our patients’ complaints, we must ask probing questions, to get to the real meaning of what they are saying before we can really expect to serve their best interests. As professionals, we should never “jump ahead” of the patient and anticipate what we assume they might say just because we’ve heard the same complaints over and over.
In order to provide our patients with the care they deserve, we must provide not only a technical knowledge of their condition and appropriate treatment solutions, we must also provide dedicated, undistracted, listening. We must always remember that effective communication is a two way street, and we need to hold up our end.