Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dr. Neil Baumann totally gets it -- Audiologists - it's not all about hearing aids

Dr. Neil Baumann really gets what it's like to be hard of hearing. He is director of the Center for Hearing Loss Help which is run by and for hard of hearing people.

One of the problems I've experienced throughout the almost 15 years of hearing loss that has been most frustrating is, audiologists don't help with coping skills. Their main reason for being, in my experience, is to push hearing aids. I have never had an audiologist explain coping skills, tell me about hearing loss societies, inform me about support groups, give me a list of good hearing loss websites and forums, talk to me about speech reading skills, tell me what to expect with regards to a psychological transition into deafness, suggest good reading/book resources. The one time I got any resource was when I noticed a book on my hearing aid specialists office shelf. I wrote down the title and borrowed it from the library. It was an account of a woman's experience with hearing loss. Reading it made me feel that I was not alone. I had already been struggling for 2 years with hearing loss and this was the first time that I felt a sense of relief, that aids were not going to make me hear normally ever. Life was always going to be different. Instead of making me feel depressed, I felt somewhat relieved. It wasn't something I was doing wrong that made the aids not work i.e. restore my hearing.Why my hearing specialist didn't tell me I would never hear normally again, I don't know. Why he didn't tell me that aids are not a cure-all, I don't know. Why he didn't tell me that I was going to feel like my head was going to explode around loud noises, I don't know.

So given my exasperation with the audiology world it was refreshing to come upon Dr. Baumann's Q&A:

What I Wish Audiologists Understood

In particular, these passages really rang a chord with me:
From what I have observed, audiologists seem to think their "job" is to fit/sell hearing aids as the solution to the hearing loss problems of the hard of hearing people that come to them. I wish audiologists understood that their real job is to us help hard of hearing people cope with our hearing losses.
Learning about hard of hearing people and the many effective coping skills they need to live successful lives—now that is worthy of an audiological degree!
I wish audiologists would teach us how to become friends with our hearing aids. We need training and coaching and support as we start life with these strange uncomfortable things stuck in our ears. We need to learn to cope with sound all over again. We need their help to do this. I wish audiologists would not sell us hearing aids and then dump us out on the street. [my bolding because that's how I felt when I got my first aids -- dumped on the street with all these new sounds, wondering if this is really what hearing was supposed to be like (loud, painful, nerve-wrecking, still-can't-hear-voice-well)]
People who lose their hearing need help, training and encouragement in learning speechreading—not derision and scorn. Speechreading is every bit as important as being fitted with hearing aids! I wish audiologists could realize this.
There are numerous coping skills we hard of people need to learn. I wish audiologists would realize this and teach us what we need to know—even though we don’t know we need to know it. [Prepare us for what our new lives with hearing loss and aids will be like.]...We also need to know the rules so we can teach our families and friends how to communicate effectively with us....We need to know how to preserve the little precious hearing we still have. Furthermore, we need to know about the many drugs that can damage our ears.....Hard of hearing people feel alone and cut off. I wish audiologists realized just how cut off we can be and put us in touch with support groups.....Hearing loss affects our whole family. Therefore, all of us need joint help and counseling. I wish my audiologist would teach all of us the coping strategies we need to live successful lives together....I wish audiologists would realize that hearing aids are just a small part of the solution, not the total solution.


SpeakUp Librarian said...

If I had received the assistance suggested by Dr. Baumann, I know my adjustment to hearing aids would have been much easier. In part, that is why I started my blog. I was looking for just the sort of help he mentions and when I couldn't find it, I thought I would share my own experience online.

hearing aid repairs boston ma said...

There are great audiologists out there that can help you in your hearing aids. At first, hearing aids are not that friendly but eventually you can get the hang of it.

HOHCanadian said...

Yes, there are many good audiologists with respect to hearing aid advice, care and maintenance. But it's been my experience that there's little to no help from audiologists when it comes to coping skills and dealing with the social and emotional aspect of hearing loss. Not even referrals to websites, hearing loss associations, therapy groups, or reading materials about dealing with hearing loss.