I am an audiologist in Cape Town, and I am sitting across the table from my patient. We have just reviewed the results of her hearing test, and we have confirmed exactly why she is struggling to hear in noisy places, and why she cannot understand the American accents on television. She has a hearing loss which is sensorineural (nerve-based), and she really needs hearing aids. As we speak, it is clear that she has been compensating for her hearing loss in many circumstances- sometimes guessing what people are saying (‘and occasionally jumping to the wrong conclusion!’, she tells me, chuckling at herself).
She tells me that she knows that she has to do something about it. It is interfering with her relationships. Her children have been telling her for some time that she cannot hear them properly, and in board meetings, she fears that she is going to miss some vital piece of information. Her anxiety and concentration demand have become too high. Her test results prove that she will benefit from more sound reaching her nerve. If we can increase the amount of sound available to her brain, she will hear more clearly. For this, she needs to wear hearing aids in both ears.
And now, she is looking at me, not as her caring audiologist, but as an enormous hill that she must climb. A long, long walk. This is compounded by many myths and fallacies that she has heard about hearing aids. My goal is to support her: to understand her needs and to help her know enough about her function and her hearing loss; to help her erase some of the incorrect or distorted (even outdated) information that she has received about using hearing aids and replace it with information that is backed up by research and knowledge. It is my job to turn the perception of a long walk, into a long walk to freedom-freedom from the stress of wondering whether she heard something correctly.
We, together through the meeting of our minds, will team up to create a fundamental shift in thinking, and achieve a successful and joyous outcome: The ability to hear and function again in an almost normal way.
To do this, we have to address all of her questions:
How is my hearing loss affecting my life?
Will my hearing loss get worse if I don’t do anything about it?
Will my hearing loss get worse if I DO something about it?
How will I feel if gradually, my hearing deteriorates? What are the social, psychological and emotional consequences of not being able to follow a conversation easily? How will other people respond to me- will my family notice a difference?
Should I get one, or two?
What does a hearing aid look like? Will people see it?
How does it work? What can it do?
What does it cost?
Is there a difference between a hearing aid that is less or more expensive? Which type suits me?
If I have small hearing aids that no-one can see, do they cost more?
Is it complicated? Will I have to manage a lot of buttons and functions?
How will I feel if I wear hearing aids? Will I obtain benefit in all circumstances, or only some?
Can it help me on the telephone? With Television? With meetings? With social gatherings in noise?
How can I maximise my benefit and get the best results?
How long will it take for us to fit them? How long will it be until I get used to them?
How long will it last me? Can it be changed or reset to cope with changes in my hearing loss?
Can I sleep with it? Does it stay in my ear all the time?
How is it powered? How do I look after it?
Should I insure it?
How often do I come back to you? How quickly can my hearing change?
As I answer her questions, I am going to share them with you.
In our following series of articles, we will address each of these areas so that you can also obtain some sound knowledge!
‘SOUND’, because we base it on the field of research that is available on all aspects of hearing: causes of hearing loss; patient experiences; emotions; results and consequences; technologies; cosmetics; finances; outcomes.
‘SOUND’, because hearing is one of our primary senses and LIFE IS MORE AMAZING WITH it, than without it.
‘SOUND’, because we have been seeing patients for over 20 years and we apply our clinical experiences to our interactions with each patient, and learn from each and every moment we spend with the people we see.
Please follow us on our journey.
Carien De Jager
and the NB Hearing Team