Experiencing Hearing Loss: The Patient Journey
Patient Perspective Aside from the physical reality, hearing loss takes a significant psycho-emotional toll.
For Jeffrey Switzer, an audiologist at Global Hearing Aid Clinic in Toronto, and Gail Maron and Elka Gold, audiologists and partners at HearCare Audiology and Hearing Aid Clinic in Etobicoke, facilitating the patient’s journey forms a central part of treat- ment. And key to their approach is active listening.
Affected on a personal level
Left with moderately severe hearing loss in one ear from infancy, Switzer experienced first-hand the psychological effects as he entered young adulthood. Gold witnessed the disturbing effects of hearing loss on her grandmother. For Maron, an interest in the psychology of hearing prepared her for a career in audiology.
"Digitalization and miniaturization technology has put to rest many of the negative associations people have with hearing loss."
The long list of impacts, she says, includes depression, uncertainty, frustration, stress, anger and the deterioration of relationships. Coming in for an initial consultation may involve putting denial aside, a personal process sometimes reinforced by family or friends. At that point, Switzer says, “We help them sort out what the issue really is, educate them about their hearing loss, educate them about their limitations with and without hearing aids and, also, their abilities with and without hearing aids, and move forward from there.”
He stresses that age is never a determining factor when it comes to needs. Personality and lifestyle play a much more important role.
The acute need for awareness
Sadly, and surprisingly in this day and age, Maron says, “there are people who truly do not know that they have hearing loss. Often their first inkling that something is wrong is when they come and have a hearing test, and have the results explained to them.”
The good news is that stigmas attached to hearing loss may soon be a thing of the past. According to Gold, digitalization and miniaturization technology has put to rest many of the negative associations people have with hearing loss. “With advances in technology, we see a lot more people coming in and willing to confront [their hearing loss].”
Each patient’s journey is unique. While a clear diagnosis of hearing loss may be painful, for many patients just having the fact of the loss confirmed provides a great sense of relief. As a patient struggles to regain autonomy and peace of mind, the support of an audiology professional committed to actively listening to the patient’s concerns and needs makes each journey easier. Success stories confirm the effectveness of the trio’s treatment approach.
Gold recalls a device demonstration that brought a skeptical patient and self-avowed music lover to tears. Maron describes a reclusive patient who, because of his hearing loss, never ventured out unaccompanied. Fitted with a hearing device, he delightedly braved public transit on his own.