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Hearing, Hearing Loss and Spouses

The response to this question could be the subject of an entire book Chapter! Nonetheless, I will attempt to provide some food for thought in a brief statement.

Often when we call our patients back for the hearing evaluation and/or hearing aid consultation, we look into the waiting room and find the patient sitting by him/herself.

One of the first questions we should ask ourselves in our efforts to build a successful practice might be..Is my receptionist ensuring that the significant other is requested to come to the appointment?

Communication is a dynamic process between two or more people. If we are going to get a full view of the impact hearing loss might have on this process, it is vitally important that we gain input from both people, the person with the hearing loss and their significant other, who is frequently present in communication exchanges.

The presence of a significant other during our appointments with the patient may serve several facilitative purposes, in particular;

1. Taking the step toward amplification is a difficult process for many people. The support and encouragement from a trusted, close acquaintance can be instrumental when it comes time to make the decisions we are calling upon patients to make, for example;

Do I really need two hearing aids?
Do I need the advanced circuit (i.e., expensive device) that is recommended?
Do I need to do this now, or can I come back for a retest in 3 or 4 months?

A spouse or significant other can be our greatest ally in helping patients to make the decisions they need to make.

2. Adjusting to corrective amplification is not an easy process for many of our patients. Discouragement can rapidly set in when performance does not meet expectations. And discouragement and frustrations are fueled by a communication partner who does not appreciate what the person with a hearing loss is going through and whose own expectations may be inappropriately high.

3. Finally, we often fall short in meeting the true rehabilitative responsibilities of our profession. Too often we end our efforts with the hearing aid fitting, verification, and validation process.

We need to provide practical guidance to our patients and their significant others on how to facilitate communication with hearing loss when hearing aids fall short. If we cannot do this in a group AR setting, we need, at a minimum, to provide written guidelines and suggestions to augment efforts with amplification.

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