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How Can I Determine Amplification Readiness?

Donald J. Schum, PhD

January 7, 2013

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Question

I have patients that come in every day, some seemingly more interested in hearing aids than others, even though the majority of them are self-referred.  How can I impact their decision to move forward with hearing aids?

Answer

The first step in establishing an intervention plan is to determine the patient’s outcome goals.  We believe that the following factors are important.  First is trust.  The patient must feel trust in three key areas:

  • Trust in the professional that is providing the care
  • Trust in the products that are recommended as part of the care package
  • Trust in themselves that they are making the right decision

Next, the patient must emotionally feel the effects of the hearing loss. There needs to be a sense of urgency that the hearing loss is affecting daily life, and that situation must change.  Third, the patient must take ownership of the solution.  And lastly, the patient needs to have realistic expectations of the process.

The goal is to create a positive environment for success so that the patient feels that they are doing the right thing and are working with the right person. They must recognize that the hearing loss is complicating their life and the lives of their loved ones. They have to recognize that they are the only person who can make the decision to move forward in the process.

Finally, they have to recognize the inherent limitations of hearing loss and understand what their life will be once amplification has been obtained. Although different patients will enter the process with a different agenda and mindset, it is reasonable to expect most patients to move to a point where these four criteria are met and the fitting process can start. It may take only a few minutes of discussion with the patient and family members to recognize that the patient truly is ready to start the fitting process.

There are some patients who truly should not be fit with amplification after the first interaction. As indicated above, some patients opt to gather information from professionals before deciding to act on healthcare issues. Some patients do not feel comfortable with making a major decision that will affect either lifestyle or finances without taking the time to examine all the options. Traditionally, a person who visits a hearing care professional but decides not to purchase amplification at the time might be viewed as a missed opportunity. That viewpoint is not consistent with what we understand about the way individuals interact with the healthcare system. For a voluntary decision, such as using amplification, many patients take upon themselves the responsibility to evaluate all options. The traditional notion that “the doctor will tell me what to do” is less and less apparent these days.

The hearing care professional should view a patient who does not decide to act during the first encounter not as a missed opportunity but rather as a future opportunity. The patient must act from a mindset of confidence and trust. The best thing that the hearing care professional can do is to validate the patient’s decision to continue to seek information before acting. Perhaps the patient feels the need to get a second opinion. Perhaps the patient feels that their hearing difficulties are not bad enough yet to require the purchase of amplification. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the patient does act at some point in time, preferably seeking out the services of a qualified professional. The hearing care professional can increase the likelihood that the patient will return to their office if they show respect for the patient’s decision to continue to consider options.

More information on this topic can be found in our article New Insights into First-Time Users. The new eCaps Pro is a counseling tool that can help build patient trust with their hearing care professional in a positive and interactive way. Contact Oticon to learn more about this program or go to MyOticon.com to download the iPad version of eCaps Pro or request the PC version.  You may also visit the Oticon Expo Page on AudiologyOnline.


donald j schum

Donald J. Schum, PhD

Vice President of Audiology and Professional Relations

Don Schum currently serves as Vice President for Audiology & Professional Relations for Oticon, Inc. Previous to his position at Oticon in Somerset, Don served as the Director of Audiology for the main Oticon office in Copenhagen Denmark. In addition, he served as the Director of the Hearing Aid Lab at the University of Iowa, School of Medicine (1990-1995) and as an Assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (1988-1990). During his professional career, Dr. Schum has been an active researcher in the areas of Hearing Aids, Speech Understanding, and Outcome Measures. (B.S. in Speech & Hearing Science, University of Illinois M.A. in Audiology, University of Iowa Ph.D. in Audiology, Louisiana State University.)


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