The Patient Journey
Patient Perspective Question: Do you keep putting off a visit with your doctor because you’re afraid of what you might find out? Answer: Stop worrying! Learn about the journey from the first visit to the fitting of your new hearing aid.
From the hum of the Skytrain, to honking horns and dissonant chatter in Gastown, the ins-and-outs of city life can be exhausting on the ears. As the world gets louder, our ears suffer but how do you know if you have a hearing issue? “A large percentage of people don’t realize they have hearing loss,” says Margaret Young, Senior Central Audiologist for Costco Hearing Aid Centres.
For many, finding out one has difficulty hearing can be quite a revelation, but with advances in modern technology and proper care, adapting to the natural progression of hearing loss can be an easy life adjustment.
“A large percentage of people don’t realize they have hearing loss."
The journey begins with a first assessment
Whether or not you think you have hearing loss, it is important to have your hearing tested regularly as you would with your optometrist or dentist. “Hearing loss is easily overlooked by many. How would you know that you missed a sound if you didn’t hear it in the first place?” says Young. Often the only consistent reference that people seem to have is a visual one, like the volume levels shown on their TV screen.
So visiting a hearing clinic for an assessment and establishing a baseline for your hearing is important. The assessment looks at the patient’s abilities to hear. It evaluates pitches and tones, the ability to hear speech, and whether or not there are any blockages or health concerns with the middle ear.
These results are augmented by a discussion of the patient’s family history and any noise exposure.
Understanding the adjustment
At this point, the patient will be given their assessment results. “This is when a lot of information is going to come in all at the same time,” says Young. “For some people, the information that they have hearing loss could be a huge surprise to them and may be difficult to digest.”
If you are a candidate for hearing aids, communication is key. You should be vocal about your needs, lifestyle, and any financial considerations you have. Additionally, Young says it’s very important to establish a strong and meaningful relationship with the hearing professional throughout the process, given that both communication and the relationship will play an equal role in future care.
Re-learning to hear
As technology evolves, new hearing aid accessories become available, such as devices that connect the hearing aid with mobile phones or televisions. These advances have made communication much easier, but this isn’t the end of the journey, notes Young. Some things to be aware of in BC are the effects of moisture and humidity on hearing aid electronics.
“Those things can cause a hearing aid to become intermittent,” says Young. She says manufacturers have picked up on the concerns and developed moisture resistant coatings. “The most important thing that the patient can do at this point is to keep an open mind and recognize that they have to train their ear to hear again,” she adds.
“They need to be committed to the process.” Young says sometimes patients assume hearing aids represent a quick fix, but keeping your expectations in check during treatment and follow-up is also part of the process. “If you’ve been inactive for a while, you can’t just go and run a marathon,” she says.
“Similarly, if your ear hasn’t been stimulated for a while, it takes time to adjust to the new sound levels.” In the long term, the patient will need to keep the doors of communication open with their hearing professional to ensure that the hearing aid is adjusted and continues to work best for them.
Take the step
“Bottom line is that even though technology has advanced so much, there are a wide array of options available to candidates based on their needs;” says Young, “however, the only way to benefit from these options is to take that first step and get your hearing assessed.”