It is easy to assume that deaf and hard of hearing patients have smooth experiences with their audiologists. But that is not always the case, as some audiologists and the audiology department as a whole are (ironically) not as deaf-aware as we wish.
From asking deaf patients to use the phone to talking to us when their backs are facing us, there are various little adjustments that can be made that will make audiologists’ job a lot easier and smoother, whilst making sure that the patients are happier and better looked after.
Below, I will list tips on the various adjustments that audiologist can make to better their relationships with us…the patients.
It’s easy to criticise audiologists here, but a relationship is a two-way street and we, as patients, also have our own responsibilities in making the most out of our relationship with our audiologists too. So there will be a separate post on how patients can make the most out of their appointments with audiologists.
Meanwhile, you can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript.
Just like any doctor-patient relationship, it should be really smooth and it should go very well. It’s an important relationship that applies to anyone, in any speciality. It’s just important.
The same thing applies when it comes to audiologist and their patients, like myself.
So that is also very important for many different reasons and it’s quite a unique one from my experience of being with an audiologist and other specialities…it’s different. It’s a different way of communicating (obviously), it’s a different way of making it work, but it’s just as equally important to get it right.
You would think that it’s a smooth experience. You’d think that we all have those audiology appointments and just it’s normal, smooth experience.
But for a lot of us, it’s not…even for me.
I’ve had some weird audiology experiences and it made me wonder how many people go through these experiences. And also, most importantly, how can audiology improve their doctor-patient relationship with us?
I just want to get out there that this is not a criticism at the audiologists directly. I have some sympathy with them in terms of how they have different things to learn that other specialities need to learn, and it is a different way of working.
But at the same time, you signed up for it. You should know what to expect. However, let me see what I can do for you. I want to be able to help you.
I want to share some tips on how audiologist can improve their relationship with patients. And it will make your job a lot easier and it will make patients a lot happier.
Isn’t that important?
I’ve noticed when communicating with a lot of people that there are some common problems that we all go through which can easily be resolved. And it’s just a weird problem to go through and I’ll explain in a minute.
But even on top of that, I’ve seen some studies out there, even one particular one in the ‘Journal of the American Academy of Audiology’, where in that journal, it has said and I quote:
“Patients raised concerns (typically psychological in nature with negative emotional stance) about hearing aids in half of the appointments where hearing aids were recommended as the rehabilitation option. However, audiologists missed opportunities to build relationships with consent of patients were not typically addressed.”
Check! I’ve experienced that, and I know many, many people have experienced that too.
In the same study, it also claim that, quote:
“…audiologists dominate the conversation during audiology consultation and rehabilitation planning sessions. Audiologists did not take advantage of the opportunity to develop patient-centered communication and shared decision-making”.
I know a lot of people have gone through that, and it makes me wonder why is that. I just always thought that it’s a common sense but maybe it’s not common sense. Maybe we should be speaking up about it. Maybe we should share our stories, and this is where I want to come into it. I want to be able to help.
I want to share what audiologists can do to help improve that relationship.
When booking an audiology appointment…
1. We don’t want to (and can’t) use the phone to book an appointment
Let’s start with the booking of an appointment.
I can’t believe I have to say this, but this seems to be a very common problem for a lot of people. We don’t want to call to make an appointment. Can you guess why?!
It’s so weird to me that you’re forcing patients who are deaf and hard of hearing or anything along that line, to phone to make an appointment when the phone is the last thing that we want to use. Doesn’t that make sense? Isn’t that a bit obvious?
But for some reason, a lot of people have to call the audiologist to make an appointment. And obviously that is very, very difficult to do, so they get someone else to do it and that person is not always available.
So let’s provide other options when it comes to booking appointments; an online system, email, anything but a phone call.
2. Provide accessibility options and preferred communication method
And while you’re at it, let’s have some options about accessibility and preferred communication method. You know, maybe someone prefer to communicate via sign language because that’s a common thing to see.
But that’s never really asked. It’s never really given an option there.
So let’s have that in there as well, because it would really save a lot of headache for both the audiologist and the patients.
At the waiting room…
3. Provide open-loop technology
So we’ve got the appointment booked. We are at the waiting room. Here’s one thing that you could do: offer the open loop option for hearing aids users. You know, you should have a technology in place.
And again, that’s not a very common thing to have for some reason at the audiology department.
I find that very, very weird when the audiology department are encouraging people to use the open loop technology within the hearing aids. So, then you should have it yourself.
4. Be more deaf-aware when communicating
The huge irony is that I find a lot of people in the department are not really aware in terms of deaf awareness, especially when it comes to communicating with patients.
They tend to look from other direction, they tend to maybe have their back toward the patient or they mumble or they don’t even speak clearly.
You would think that the staff would be very deaf aware, but I find that they are not always like that. So I think you should just follow the basic methods, the basic rules about communicating with deaf patients, you know, speak clearly, allow lipreading, well-lit room, write things down if you need to, use technology.
But I don’t see that. So why don’t you just have the option there as well?
5. Don’t call out for patients’ name
This also some very obvious to me, but when it’s the patient’s turn like, for example, when it’s my turn to go into the doctor’s office, I’d rather you don’t shout out for my name for obvious reasons.
I mean, maybe I’ll be able to pick it up. But what about those who are more profoundly deaf? What’s the point of shouting out their name if they can’t hear you personally?
This apply to any department in the hospital, even at places like GPs and even at a dentist, calling out names seem to be, I don’t know, not the best option. You can tell use technology like a sign or electronic sign to just say who is next or something like that.
But to call it out, obviously, we’re not all going to be able to hear that, so that’s kind of pointless.
During the appointment…
6. Be aware of how you communicate
So during the appointment, we’re in the doctor’s office, we’re having that communication. And obviously, like I said before, let’s just follow the basic communication techniques when talking to deaf people, again, offer lipreading and technology and face to face and don’t mumble and don’t turn away and talk.
I’ve talked about this many, many times. You can check it out in the description. I’ve done it before, so I don’t have to repeat myself all over again. If you want to download that checklist, I’ve got that option available in the description.
Check out the PDF download on how to communicate with deaf people below:
Everyone can benefit from that. But I feel like even audiologists need to just have a brief look at that as well, because I’ve seen some mistakes when they do that to me, let alone to other people.
7. Truly listen to us
From my experiences and several others, audiologist don’t generally understand where we’re coming from. I feel like sometimes they enforce things or they dismiss how we’re feeling or our situation, and they don’t truly, truly listen and understand where you’re coming from.
And that’s such an important factor for any doctor-patient relationship and I get that with an audiologist and I don’t understand why that is the case. I just don’t know why. Maybe they are under pressure. Maybe time is of essence. I don’t know.
But listen to us carefully, when we are sharing our struggles, our vulnerability, when we open up, please listen to us.
8. Ask questions
While you listen to us. I encourage you to ask questions. Just ask. I’d rather you would know than just assume.
But if you’re going to ask questions, please don’t ask questions when we have the mold inside our ears and you’ve blocked our ears and you’re asking for information about us. It’s just just not going to work.
Throughout the entire time, I’m not saying you should have sympathy, I’m saying just have empathy. Big difference between the two. Just have empathy on what we’re going through, how we’re going through the struggle or anything, and then we can make things work together.
Because then we’ll be happy and you’ll be happy, and I think that is the ultimate aim of this particular appointment. We want to have a solution, but the only way that can do that is if you listen to us.
After the appointment…
9. No follow-up phone conversations
Once we have done all of that, after the appointment, again, make sure everything is crossed off the list in terms of communication, you’ve said everything that you need to do, you’ve asked all the questions.
But for any follow-up conversation, please don’t call us and talk to us on the phone. We hate the phone.
OK, correction. We don’t hate the phone. We hate phone calls…big difference. We just don’t like it.
More useful advice for audiologists
10. Learn sign language to level up your communication
One of the most important tips that I think all audiologist should consider is to at least learn some sign language.
I find it very confusing and I’m baffled why most audiologist that I have come across and from talking to other people about their experiences with audiologist, none of them or very few of them know sign language.
I’m not saying you have to be fluent at it (although it would be useful). I’m just saying that it would be great if you know more than the basic of the sign language in your local area, in your country (just be aware of that). And that doesn’t seem to be the case.
So I think that should be a very, very useful thing, which should go to the top board in terms of the audiology department, in terms of the board, they should be encouraging audiologist to learn some sign language.
11. Learn more about deaf community & culture
Along the way, you will also learn about the deaf community, deaf culture; all the things that we go through at a deeper level. And I feel like that is a hugely missed opportunity. And in my experience, very few audiologist understand that.
And I don’t understand why that’s the case. Maybe, again, they’re under pressure. Maybe they’re following the system and they have no choice. But then you could still learn about it in your own time from the right people.
But if you learn about the deaf community and the people that are within, you learn a lot about our struggles, our emotions, our barriers, you learn more at a deeper level than in a textbook or in medical school because they don’t teach these things.
I think this is very, very important that you learn that because then you’ll be able to have a much better understanding and empathy of what every single person goes through.
And that’s important.
12. Listen to us…like, really listen to us
I said it earlier and I’m going to say again, listen to us. I mean, really listen to us. When I speak to audiologists and say that I am struggling with hearing aids or I don’t like it or I’m not sure if it’s for me or are there any better options, I tend to get a pushback.
I tend to get people enforcing me. I tend to get them to deny what I’m saying. And they just say:
“it’s OK…keep doing it…keep working at it…we don’t have any another option…you’ve got no choice…you need to put up with it”.
Very negative attitude and that’s not going to help.
At the end of the day, we’re the one who’s going through this. We are the patient. We technically know better how we are feeling, not you. And we’re living the experience, we know more from living it than you know from reading about it. And people who live through experiences have more knowledge.
And that’s why I just implore that you really, really listen to us, listen to us deeply, not just take on board and then “whatever”.
13. Don’t be biased…be open-minded
And then when you add up all these things together, here’s one thing I also want to say: don’t be biased, be open minded.
When it comes to the medical industry, I feel like there are pressure within or there are targets to meet. Or maybe there’s something around the value of money when it comes to pushing people to go towards a particular direction.
What I mean by that is for example, parents are forced to take the option of hearing aid or cochlear cochlear implants or speech therapy, they’re forced to take that option by doctors.
This is because they are then told that if you don’t take these options, your child will be left behind, he or she will go backward, will fail in life, in school and university, and that will strike fear into hearing parents.
This is a very common situation, which is extremely sad. But this is the thing that people feel like if that’s the best option, then they will take it. Of course, you’re going to listen to the expert. But the problem is you’re not truly the expert if you haven’t lived that experience.
So be open minded, and the way you can do that is to just learn about it, learn about sign language, learn about the people, learn about deaf community and a culture, everything around it.
You will have a much broader, deeper understanding which allows you to open your mind. And only then are you able to give the best advice. Only then, because if you only follow one rule, one road, then you’re not giving the best advice. You’re just following that one route only and it just going to satisfy you and that’s it.
But it’s not going to satisfy the most important person in that room, which is the patient.
I should point out, and round it all up by saying it takes two to tango because I am talking about the audiologist only, but we have our own responsibilities as well.
We can’t just assume that audiologists will do all the work and make sure everything works smoothly. We have our own things.
So this is why in another separate video/podcast, I’m going to be talking about how we as patients, we can make the most out of our audiology appointments and how we can improve our relationship with audiologists. Because it’s a two-way street. Relationship is a two-way street.
You can’t just assume one person will do all the work. We also have to do the work. So check that out when it comes out, and I’ll make sure I’ll put it in the link in the description as well.
It’d be awesome to hear from your experience as well, whether you are an audiologist or a patient. I’d love to hear your stories, your experiences, any more tips that you can offer for audiologists? Let me know in the comment below. I would love to read them and I would love to put them together in a place where then people can share it.
And if you found this post useful, share it. Share it with your audiologists.
Hopefully, then you as the patient and you as the audiologist will have a much better, healthier, a more productive relationship than ever before. That’s what I would love to see.
So let me know in the comments, share your experiences, and while you’re there, make sure you ‘Like’ this video if you find it useful.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- “Which sign language should I learn first?” – My thoughts - May 5, 2021
- “There should be a universal sign language…” – My thoughts - April 27, 2021
- How to make the most out of your audiology appointments & your audiologist? - November 12, 2020