The word on social media is that audiologists only want to sell hearing aids. Audiologists don’t have a clue what it’s like for people living with Hearing Loss; it’s as if audiologists are from a different planet. This goes to show how little people understand audiology. There are many specialty areas in audiology hearing healthcare services. Some audiologists work at clinics prescribing HAs. Just like some optometrists work at clinics prescribing eyeglasses. If an audiologist evaluates your hearing and finds HL, it would be unethical for them not to recommend HAs. Unaided HL causes dementia, loneliness, anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and early death. Aiding only 1 ear causes auditory deprivation; the unaided ear loses its ability to understand speech. This never recovers fully even if the person gets a HA for that ear later. If both ears are aidable, paired hearing with 2 HAs is best. That’s not a sales ploy; that’s science. Humans have 2 ears for a reason: the best sound quality and communication possible.
Some audiologists prescribe HAs for tinnitus-hyperacusis therapy. Whether for HL or hyper ears, it’s impossible to prescribe or fit HAs without knowing about a person’s lifestyle and where they’re having problems. It’s the only way to customize counselling based on each individual person’s hearing and communication concerns, and make sure HA features and assistive listening devices are chosen that will be most helpful in the person’s daily life. It’s the only way to set up and program all the HA features properly when fitting the HAs including HIT Box electro-acoustic testing, Real Ear Measures, gain set to NAL-NAL2 or DSL evidence-based targets, OSPL90 set below LDLs, compression ratios, speech mapping, beamforming, wireless communication with external devices, loaded apps, multiple channels programmed as needed e.g. custom sound therapy, music appreciation, restaurant/coffee shop background noise environments, or hobby or lifestyle specific. There are many hearing, hyper ears and communication management possibilities. But there’s no way to know what to talk about for the counselling, HA prescription and fitting, or guidance and follow-up unless the audiologist communicates and gets to know the person with HL.
Other audiologists who don’t fit HAs also work to improve quality of life for people with HL. Occupational and military audiologists working to prevent noise-induced HL. Hospital diagnostic audiologists working in newborn infant hearing screening programs or audio-vestibular clinics helping people with imbalance or dizziness. Pediatric or geriatric specialists. Cochlear implant program audiologists. Educational audiologists working towards accessible education for children with HL. Healthcare system audiologists. All typically on a salary. No sales. No commissions.
No matter where audiologists work, they spend their days testing and talking with people who have HL; hearing the stories, comforting the tears, seeing the serious impact HL or hyper ears has on people’s daily lives. Most audiologists have empathy. Some burn out. After all, sales isn’t even taught in audiology programs. Hearing health, communication management, hearing aid management and hyper ears management are the focus. It’s very sad that audiologist hearing healthcare is hugely undervalued by society compared to vision healthcare by optometrists.
Then there’s the personal side. Many audiologists have hyper ears. Many audiologists have HL and use HAs themselves. Who better to understand other people with HL or hyper ears? Even if they don’t have hearing issues, good luck finding an audiologist who doesn’t have or know somebody with HL or hyper ears. Good luck finding anybody who doesn’t have or know somebody with HL or hyper ears.
My personal experience started early. My Dad had very severe permanent mixed HL from childhood ear infections. When he was little, there were no antibiotics or PE tubes. He ended up having surgeries on both sides when the infections spread to the mastoid bones of his skull. I saw him pretending he heard when he missed what was said. The denial. The missed and misunderstood conversations and difficult communication in noisy places. My grandparents had age-related HL. I saw their hearing slip away over the years. The communication breakdowns. Until they eventually got HAs. I had friends at school with HAs. One girl was Deaf. She taught me in the 1980s that Deaf people can do anything from dance performances, playing field hockey or taking karate lessons; things we did together since other people socially isolated her out of ignorance. #DeafTalent
Like many audiologists, I have never sold a HA. Like many audiologists, I like to think I have empathy for people with HL or hyper ears. I’ve burned out at least once. I definitely know what it’s like to struggle and cope with hyper ears myself. I have mild HL. Combined with my past experiences, I think I do understand at least partly what it’s like to live with HL in our modern society. But I’m certainly not a salesperson. And I’m pretty sure I’m not from Mars.
Photo Credit Matt Collamer at Unsplash
Jan L. Mayes MSc writes horror fiction and non-fiction, and is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, blogger and audiologist specializing in ghosts, noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, hearing health education and plotting murders. Her writing has been featured at Tinnitus Today, Communique, silencity.com and The Horror News Daily.