Of Language Barriers, Culture Gaps and e-Bridges

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It certainly isn’t news that our country is becoming increasingly diverse. What may surprise us is that some of the biggest growth is happening in non-border, less-urbanized states. California, Texas and Florida continue to have the most residents who were born in another country. However, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, North Carolina and Tennessee all saw more than a 70% increase in foreign-born residents between 2000 and 2012.

This means that ASHA members probably find themselves with more and more English-language learners on their caseloads. These audiologists and SLPs likely also live in areas where there may not be many resources for serving ELL students. Our Code of Ethics states that we should provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. ASHA also acknowledges that the ideal situation for ELL clients is to work with a bilingual service provider with specific language and clinical skills.

Telepractice offers an elegant solution for connecting colleagues with these competencies to our clients that need them.

The versatility of telepractice makes it useful in different settings. A school district might use several Spanish-speaking telepractitioners to manage its entire ELL caseload. A rural health clinic may create a limited agreement with a bilingual audiologist for follow-up care of a patient who communicates in a less-commonly spoken language.

Telepractice can be used for more than intervention. We can assess patients—even formally—through telepractice. Formal assessment via telepractice is getting easier because many well-known tests are now digitized. Even when a certified professional is not available through telepractice, an onsite team can use technology to connect with interpreters and cultural brokers to help provide appropriate services.

Telepractice licensing, however, remains a hurdle for taking advantage of remote services or becoming a telepractitioner. Most states don’t currently have regulations on telepractice for our professions. ASHA and local associations, however, advocate for states to formulate and adapt guidelines permitting telepractice.

In the meantime, associations advise telepractitioners to verify requirements and policies, as well as hold all appropriate credentials, both in the state where we reside and where the client receives services. This applies also to special credentialing for bilingual telepractitioners.

ASHA doesn’t certify bilingual service providers, but it provides guidelines for those who represent themselves as such. For example, we are ethically-bound to ensure that we speak or sign another language with native or near-native proficiency, and possess various clinical competencies.

To my knowledge, only Illinois and New York have a type of credential for bilingual practitioners, and these are specific to professionals working in schools. However, because policy changes frequently (and is difficult to track), SLPs and audiologists should verify any bilingual-specific requirements in states where they might practice before providing services.

Telepractice holds a lot of promise for serving clients with diverse needs. Even when there is some red tape to figure out, using technology to build bridges to communities that may not have many resources is one of my most rewarding professional experiences!

 

Nate Cornish, M.S., CCC-SLP is a bilingual (English/Spanish) SLP and clinical director for VocoVision and Bilingual Therapies.  He is the professional development manager for SIG 18: Telepractice, a member of ASHA’s Multicultural Issues Board, and a past president and vice-president of the Hispanic Caucus.  Cornish provides clinical support to monolingual and bilingual telepractitioners around the country.  He also organizes and presents at various continuing education events, including an annual symposium on bilingualism.  Contact him at nate.cornish@vocovision.com.

Our Profession’s Biggest Open Secret

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What’s the biggest open secret in our field? Each of us might have slightly different answers. Here’s mine: the reason so many students are blocked from receiving needed services is because their home states have not updated their Medicaid telepractice policies.

Children who qualify for Medicaid coverage, by definition, are from low-income families. My experience is that these children are disproportionately affected by the shortage of SLPs and could therefore benefit a great deal from access to treatments delivered via telepractice.

In addition, many schools, when faced with tight budgets, simply do not have the money to hire additional SLPs–telepractice or not–without Medicaid funds.

This places an unfair burden on the rural and urban schools that need telepractice the most. They struggle more than their affluent peers to find qualified SLPs. One reason is that those wealthier districts can pay substantially more for treatment delivered via telepractice if state Medicaid policies haven’t been updated to reimburse for online services.

This isn’t the most surprising part of the secret, however. That honor goes to how easily states can make the change. Consider this:

  • The federal government, which partners with each state on its Medicaid plan, has already approved billing for telepractice. That’s right, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services already has an approved billing treatment for treatment delivered via telepractice.
  • All reimbursements for telepractice are paid for entirely by the federal government. This means that states don’t pay for additional reimbursements out of pocket. Let me repeat that one more time: allowing reimbursement for telepractice increases access to services without requiring additional funds from your state’s Medicaid program.
  • For all states that PresenceLearning has researched—aside from Indiana—allowing reimbursement for telepractice is as simple as publishing a clarifying policy memo. The memo should say that online services can be billed with the same codes as traditional sessions as long as a “GT” telepractice modifier is included for tracking purposes.

It is important to keep in mind that telepractice is just a different delivery method for services already approved by CMS and reimbursed by Medicaid in schools.  SLPs provide online services using the same approaches and materials they would use if they were physically at the school site. 

What can you do to help students get the treatment they need by motivating your state to write that memo?

  • Speak to stakeholders to build a consensus. Stakeholders include: ASHA, state licensing boards, special education directors, state departments of special education and directors of child health programs for your schools.
  • Consult state-level billing agents on the best way to document services to ensure program integrity.
  • Network with colleagues using telepractice to find out which states currently approve Medicaid funding for telepractice.

There are eight states that reimburse for telepractice services. They include: Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia. In addition, reimbursement for telepractice services are pending in California and Michigan.[Note from ASHA editors: This list was published in July 2013, so it may have changed. Our December issue focused on telepractice and has a slightly different list of states offering reimbursement.] 

Contact state speech and hearing associations or state-level Medicaid directors to find out how you can assist in getting Medicaid reimbursement for telepractice services. Let’s work together to ensure students who need our services receive them and schools receive the appropriate funding from Medicaid.

Melissa Jakubowitz M.A. CCC-SLP, vice president of clinical services at PresenceLearning, is an SLP with more than 20 years of clinical and managerial experience, Melissa is a Board Recognized Specialist in Child Language. She is a past-president of the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association and is also active in ASHA, serving as a Legislative Counselor for 12 years. Melissa began her career working in the public schools and can be reached at melissa@presencelearning.com

An Audiologist’s Experiences at Convention

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I have been an audiologist since December 1982 and joined ASHA in January 1983 obtaining my CCC-A in October 1983. During those 31 plus years I’ve attended 11 ASHA national conventions and with the exception of the 2014 event my typical reason for going was to either see a city that I never saw before or to go to a city with a warm November climate.

Yes, in truth, the warmth was also why I went to Orlando! I prepared to spend many a grueling hour at Disney World and other tourist attractions. However, when I registered, I observed that every day of the convention held multiple interesting courses either directly on audiology or concerning issues related to the changing medical environment. What a blast!! Even at 60, I still believe that to learn is to live!

Keep this up ASHA and you will start to see far more audiologists attending your conferences. I truly believe that if the conventions in the past were like the 2014 convention there would never have been the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology or Audiology Foundation of America organizations. These organizations were created because we audiologists felt disenfranchised.

At this year’s convention I didn’t feel left out and believe in giving the “devil his due.” Good job ASHA, keep it up!

 

James M. O’Day, Au.D., CCC-A, is an audiologist managing the audiology department at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, NH. where he has worked for ten years. O’Day works directly with ENTs in both private practice and in hospital settings. He’s owned a private practice for more than 20 years. You can contact him at james.oday@avhnh.org.

Lessons Learned from #ASHA14

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Before the convention, I wrote a blog post about how to prepare to speak at the ASHA convention for the first time. When I wrote the post, I had spoken at another convention; however, I attended that convention as a speaker rather than the primary goal to participate in continuing education. At the ASHA Convention I planned to do both.

As I write, it is Sunday morning after the convention. I am reflecting on what went well and what didn’t go well as a speaker and attendee (not in regards to the convention in general).

 

What Went Well

I stayed organized. I used the resources I mentioned in my previous post to stay organized with my presentations. I also designated a paper folder to put information I would need paper copies of (e.g. shuttle routes, tickets, speaker’s notes, and master schedule). My master schedule was a great compensatory strategy for someone with a tired and busy brain. I will use the same system next year.

 

My food was amazing! Not only did I not get “glutened” (I have Celiac’s disease), but also my food was delicious and I didn’t stand in line waiting for food and I could eat on my schedule. The premade meals I ordered (external source) were a major success. It was relatively inexpensive to have delicious food pre-made and delivered to my hotel. I felt like I beat the system! Traveling is usually full of extra energy finding food I can eat and worrying if I’ll get sick (and dealing with it when I do).

 

I had a ton of fun! I was able to reconnect with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen since last year. I made new friends and connections. Sessions were inspiring. Several sessions had amazing speakers that couldn’t hide their excitement for being there. I love to see that excitement in a presenter. I went to a few large group events and quieter, smaller events too.

 

What I’ll Do Different Next Year

Submit fewer sessions. As I mentioned in my prior post, I didn’t anticipate all of the sessions would get accepted. I will submit fewer sessions next year. With so many sessions, it was challenging to schedule meetings and focus on relationship building at the convention. There were some conversations that I really would have liked to continue in order to form professional partnerships. (Thankfully, I can reach out to those people via email to continue the conversation.) Next year I won’t submit as many.

 

Book better flights. In Chicago, I left too early. This year I’m leaving too late. My flight doesn’t depart until 8:40pm on Sunday. The buzz from the convention has halted and I’m ready to go home to my family. Of course, next year it will be in Denver. I live in Boulder, so the convention center is a 35-minute drive from my home. No flights necessary. Travel will be much easier next year!

 

Sleep more. I was so excited to present on Friday morning (and inspired by Thursday’s sessions) that I was wide-eyed in the early hours of the morning, which meant I got about 3-hours of sleep. Just like I tell my clients all the time, adequate sleep is so important for your brain. I was processing slower, tripping on my words, and lost my place in conversations and while speaking in sessions! Anyone have suggestions for turning down excitement and wonder?

 

Overall the 2014 ASHA Convention was an excellent experience. I feel so inspired from the sessions I attended, people I met, and presenting. I have so many ideas help make the first quarter for 2015 amazing for Gray Matter Therapy.

 

Rachel Wynn, MS, CCC-SLP, specializes in eldercare, and, as the owner of Gray Matter Therapy, provides education to therapists, healthcare professionals, and families regarding dementia and elder care. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 15 (Gerontology) and an advocate for ethical elder care and improving workplace environments, including clinical autonomy, for clinicians.

#ASHA14 Audiologist in the House

blogI have been attending the national ASHA convention since 2008 in Chicago, but this year is a special first for me–MY FIRST ASHA CONVENTION AS A CERTIFIED DOCTOR OF AUDIOLOGY!!! I started attending ASHA as undergraduate while still trying to determine if I wanted to study audiology or speech-language pathology. As an undergrad, ASHA was a little overwhelming. The graduate school fair and exhibit halls, as well as the many networking events, were greatly beneficial, but as I still didn’t have a concrete plan or field, my choice in sessions was eclectic and I don’t know how much I got out of them.

The next several years I served on the NSSLHA Executive Council as a delegate for Region 8 and then as a representative for Region 3, and even though I was “at convention” I was very busy with meetings and helping run NSSLHA Day and as such, didn’t get to many sessions. The networking has always continued to be phenomenal and I loved being emcee of the NSSLHA Battle of the Regions Knowledge Bowl, but I was missing out on sessions.

Last year, as a fourth year extern who was free of meeting and other responsibilities, I was finally able to attend as a regular attendee and found some great sessions (which after three-and-a-half years of grad school, I could understand), but this year will even top that as I now have a job as an educational audiologist and can search out sessions related to what I do on a daily basis.

I always look forward to continued networking and social events as well as the exhibit hall. I’ll be sure to check out Audiology Row, the opening plenary session and closing party (Where’s my owl with a letter inviting me to Hogwarts?). As I’ve been researching audiology sessions, I selected so many sessions and posters that were of potential interest that I’ve only got two slots that don’t have conflicting sessions. I’m working on whittling the list down, but there are some sessions I feel I need to catch. Management of School‐Age Children With Hearing Loss: From the Clinic to the Classroom (#1019) is one I feel will be particulary relevant. As I’m learning the ropes at my new job (I’m the only educational audiologist in a rural four-county area of Maryland), I’m rapidly discovering that regular follow-up with dispensing/managing audiologists is not something that always happens with my students due to geographic and socio-economic issues. As such, I’m starting to develop relationships with some of the audiologists at the Children’s Hospital a couple hours away where many students were initially fit.

I’m also looking forward to some sessions and posters on APD as working in the school, it is a “hot topic.” Disentangling Central Auditory Processing (CAP) Test Findings: A Road to Greater Clarity (#1110) , Differential Diagnosis & Intervention of Central Auditory Processing Disorders (#1405), and Treatment Efficacy of the Fast ForWord-Reading Program on Language in a Child With SLI/APD (6036 poster #136).

One final session I’m also very excited about is Noise Exposure & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Rural Adolescents (#1492). The area in which I live and work has agriculture and aquaculture as two significant components of the local economy in addition to many recreational opportunities for noise exposure (hunting, shooting, ATVs, boating, etc) and I feel there will be opportunities to work on implementing some hearing conservation education at the high school level for many of the students I serve.

What are some of the sessions you’re looking forward to? See you in Orlando!

Caleb McNiece, AuD, CCC-A, is a new grad and educational audiologist for the Mid-Shore Special Education Consortium which serves four county school systems on Maryland’s eastern shore. Caleb is a former NSSLHA Executive Council member and is passionate about audiology students, audiology advocacy, pediatric audiology, and private practice.

Is There a Heffalump in the Room? Learning to Be a Leader, Part 1

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In Pooh’s “Huffalump” movie, Roo asks, “’Scuse me, what’s a heffalump?” Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, and Eeyore sing a song about the horrible qualities that they believe heffalumps possess (three heads, fiery eyes, spiked tails, etc.).

When presented with a difficult task or situation, we often find ourselves in conflict about how to deal with it. The Chinese word for conflict or crisis consists of two symbols: danger and opportunity. When we are faced with difficult moments, we must remember we have a choice. How we manage that choice often determines the outcome of the situation. In audiology, we are often faced with conflict ranging from difficult hearing aid fitting and counseling sessions to negotiating with vendors. Sometimes we have conflicts internally in our office or conflicts regarding professional issues in our membership organizations.

Conflict often makes us think of a negative experience that did not go well. We must remember, however, that conflict is not a bad thing but an opportunity for both personal and professional growth. Think about how boring meetings and conversations would be if people did not speak up and share their thoughts and ideas. If conflict is handled right, then there are benefits that you might not expect such as:
Better understanding of the issues and the opportunity to expand your awareness to the situation.
Increased trust among your team members and colleagues. People feel safe to express themselves, allowing an opportunity for growth.
Enhanced self-awareness due to being more aware of your goals and thoughts on how to be an effective leader and team member.

Handling conflict, however, does not necessarily come easily for most. Here are some key strategies that leaders use every day to help prevent and/or defuse conflict to allow for productive opportunities or engaged conversations.

When dealing with difficult moments:
Focus on the process. It is not about the people, it is about the system or process.
Go “below the line” for a collaborative approach for conflict resolution. Imagine an iceberg. You can only see the top, which is usually only 10 percent of it. To navigate the waters, you need to know what is below the sea line, the other 90 percent, to be safe.
Listen first and then ask questions for understanding. Remember restate, rephrase, and summarize when trying to gain understanding and trust.
• Create options collaboratively. Be open to ideas.
• Negotiate what options would solve the conflict.

When dealing with conflict, it is important to consider when do you take action and who should have the conversation. To answer when—the sooner the better. Addressing unprofessional behaviors, engaging with the dissatisfied patients, and/or intervening before people forget are essential to maintaining accountability, employee satisfaction and retention, and minimizing potential liabilities. To answer who—anyone in most cases. Regardless of the title, anyone should be able to talk to us and share ideas without feeling minimized or degraded. If the leaders blink or if the culture is of the mindset “it doesn’t matter, can’t change it…,” then it is important for the leadership to step in and be a role model on how to resolve conflict or better yet create a culture where conflict is considered to be an opportunity not a negative event.

To learn more about your conflict style, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument is a widely used instrument that provides helpful information on your conflict style. The conflict styles are Competitive, Collaborative, Compromising, Accommodating, and Avoiding. Different situations call for different conflict styles, so knowing what domains you typically prefer will be helpful.

I encourage you to take Roo’s direction and instead of being scared of conflict, look for the heffalump yourself and discover that often the many traits outlined are things that are not true or can be negotiated.

So, you ask, how do I negotiate these uncharted waters? Next, Leadership Realities Part II will provide you with your compass.

Tamala Selke Bradham, PhD, CCC-A, is a quality consultant in the Department of Quality, Safety, and Risk Prevention at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood.

Changing the Clinical Question from ‘Can I?’ to ‘How Can I?’

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It’s always easy to discuss how things should be. We start sentences with:

“It’d be great if…”

“Ideally…”

“In a perfect world…”

But typically, when we discuss ideals, we quickly follow up with:

“But that’s not realistic.”

“Too bad that can’t actually happen.”

“Wish it could really be that way.”

When it comes to clinical practice, I think we default to the latter group of statements far too often. We significantly limit what we believe is actually possible, because the things we know are good in theory are just too hard to apply in the “real world.” It’s easy to sit through a graduate class or a continuing education session, but it’s another thing entirely to apply that information day-to-day in the therapy room. Think about some examples:

We learn about the importance of evidence-based practice, but “realistically,” there is not a vast amount of high-quality evidence for many of our practices in this relatively young field.

We discuss the necessity of being sensitive to culturally and linguistically diverse populations, but “realistically,” we can never learn to speak every language or understand every culture.

We understand that the Code of Ethics exists for the purpose of maintaining best practices, but “realistically,” ethical dilemmas are not always so black-and-white.

So what’s the point then? Why do we have standards that we can’t live up to in practice? Why are we taught things that we are doubtful we can ever actually apply?

That, right there, is the problem. It’s the question we’re asking. We look at a client or a situation, and we ask, “Can I do this?”

“Can I find any evidence to guide my clinical decisions with this unique and difficult case?”

“Can I effectively treat this client whose language I do not speak?

“Can I maintain my personal and professional ethical codes when a ‘sticky situation’ arises?”

The problem with these questions is that from the moment we decide to become speech-language pathologists, we have already answered all of them. In accepting the responsibilities that come with being a part of this field, we have already said a huge, resounding “Yes” to every ‘Can I?’ question. No matter how challenging the situation may be, yes, we can do it, because we must.

One of my professors recently challenged our class to change the question. When faced with difficult situations that make us uneasy, or cause us to doubt what we can handle, we have to start thinking of it differently. Instead of asking, “Can I do this?” we should ask, How will I do this?”

 How will I follow the levels-of-evidence hierarchy in order to implement EBP, even when the current existing evidence base is not extremely strong in this particular area?”

How will I be creative and use resources to effectively treat this client whose language I do not speak?”

How will I ensure that I maintain my personal and professional ethical codes and engage in best practices, even when a ‘sticky situation’ arises?”

 How will I do this?”

 Many people are familiar with the famous quote from Spider Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” While a few ‘Cs’ behind your name may not seem like power to most of the world, as members of this field, we know differently. SLPs have the power to help others, facilitate communication, and cause change, and I would say that is great power. We have been given the power, and therefore we have accepted the responsibility. We have said, “Yes,” to every tricky situation and every obstacle, whatever it may be, no matter how challenging. We have said “Yes,” because it is our responsibility to do so, based on the power we have been given. We can, because we must.

The next time you are faced with a tough case and are tempted to ask, “Can I do this?,” remember that you have already answered yourself. Can you do this? Yes, you can, because you must.

So, start asking yourself and others something different. Start changing the question. Start asking, “How?”
Kelsey Roberts is a student in the master’s speech-language pathology program at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

Audiologists, You Know the Science of Hearing but Do You Know the Art of Listening? 

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As audiologists, we learn about anatomy, physiology, psychoacoustics, pathologies, technologies, and interventions. We are experts in assessing hearing sensitivity, diagnosing hearing loss, and providing audiological (re)habilitation with technologies and counseling.

Here’s a question, though: Are we experts in listening? To be an effective listener, you need to focus on the meaning of what you hear and take in to gain understanding. Have you ever taking a listening test? Have you ever given your patient a listening test?

There are many types of listening styles, and there’s also depth of listening. In reviewing the literature, I identified 27 different styles of listening and six depths of listening. I believe we use different listening styles and depths of listening based on what is happening in the moment. So, I am a client, I may, during a hearing test, be a discriminative, deep listener. Or if I am the patient learning about the new hearing aids you just fitted for me, I may be a content, full listener.

These are the four most common types of listeners.

People-oriented (empathic) listeners, who:

  • Build relationships and interpersonal connections
  • Search for common areas of interest
  • Tune into the speaker’s emotions, body language and prosody of speech
  • Ask, “Tell me all about it – what happened?”

Action-oriented (evaluative) listeners, who:

  • Prefer information that is well organized, brief and error-free.
  • Will digress when a speaker goes off on a tangent.
  • Evaluate information heard and do not take things at face value.
  • Ask, “What am I supposed to do with all this information?”

Content-oriented listeners, who:

  • Enjoy listening to complex, detailed information.
  • Ask questions to test speakers (are they credible?).
  • Focus on issues and if information is credible.
  • Ask, “Is that so?”

Time-oriented listeners, who:

  • Love “to do” lists.
  • Are overbooked, so they want messages delivered quickly and briefly.
  • Enjoy the role of keeping people on task during the meetings (the time keeper).
  • Ask, “And, what’s your point?”

If you are a people-oriented listener and your patient is a time-oriented listener, then your patient may feel that you are intrusive and not respecting their time. If you are a content-oriented listener, then be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”: When taking a patient’s history, you don’t want to ignore what could be key information because you believe there’s a lack of sufficient evidence.

And those audiologists who are action-oriented listeners may need to watch that they aren’t perceived as inpatient and not caring. Knowing your listening style can help you better understand how to adapt to various listening situations. Knowing your patient’s listening style will help you with how to deliver quality care!

There are multiple tests available to assess your dominant listening style.  Here are a few that I have used:

In establishing relationships with your patients, the importance is not so much in what you say as how you listen. Knowing hearing thresholds is only part of the evaluation. Listening to what your patient shares with you will drive your overall outcomes in patient care.

Tamala Selke Bradham, PhD, CCC-A, is associate director of quality, protocols, and risk management in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood.

Learning to Hear: Finally, the Technology

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Hearing aids have improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade. The advanced signal processing and wireless connectivity options absolutely boggle the mind. As an audiologist, I’m constantly amazed at what today’s hearing aids are capable of doing for patients. I’m equally amazed at what my patients expect the hearing aids to be capable of doing for them; yet can we blame them? They are bombarded by newspaper advertisements and mailers boasting the incredible benefits of modern hearing aids. They don’t understand what all is (or should be) included in bundled pricing, so they figure that a $X,000 pair of hearing aids should fix their hearing problems and more. I believe these inflated expectations, coupled with a lack of comprehensive patient education during the rehabilitative process, explain why patient satisfaction and market penetration are not increasing at the same rate as the technological advancements in amplification.

So how do we address these issues? The answer always goes back to the root of our profession. As audiologic rehabilitation specialists, our job is to equip our patients with tools and strategies necessary to function successfully in the world, despite their hearing loss. Patients must understand that hearing aids are only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to successful communication. In fact, there are five essential keys to communication success:

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In previous blogs we’ve discussed listener strategies, speaker strategies, and environmental modifications as critical parts of the communication puzzle. During the aural rehabilitation process, I deliberately present those pieces before I discuss technology options. Listener strategies empower the patient to take responsibility for their hearing loss. Speaker strategies engage the communication partners to be involved. Environmental modifications make the patient and their communication partners aware of their surroundings and empower them to actively create the best possible listening situations.

When we’re finally ready to present technology options, there are two important points to keep in mind. First, we need to be sure we are presenting options. I don’t mean options in terms of different hearing aid manufacturers. I mean options in terms of ALL the technology options appropriate for the patient, based on his or her specific listening challenges. I present the options as a continuum, with inexpensive assistive listening devices and personal sound amplifiers on one end, and high end hearing aids with wireless accessories on the other end. Obviously there are many technological options in between. Second, it is critical that the technology options are presented in conjunction with the other strategies discussed. Patients must understand that technology must be combined with speaker and listener strategies and environmental modifications. The speaker, listener, environment, and technology keys are equally important when it comes to ensuring a successful communication exchange.

The fifth key to communication success is practice. Patients can learn all the communication strategies in the world, but they won’t help a bit if they don’t actually use them. The same goes for technology. Patients can buy the most advanced digital hearing aids available, but they are just a waste of money if they refuse to wear them in all of their challenging listening situations. As rehabilitation specialists, we are responsible for motivating our patients to practice and use all that they’ve learned. We must find ways to hold them accountable and create a follow-up plan that ensures long-term success.

Patients with hearing loss have many options when it comes to pursuing technology. As audiologists, it is our responsibility to make them see the “big picture” and implement a comprehensive plan that addresses all pieces of the communication puzzle. I truly believe that patient satisfaction and market penetration rates will only increase when we return to our roots and make patient education the focus of our rehabilitation efforts.

 

Dr. Dusty Ann Jessen, AuDis a practicing audiologist in a busy ENT clinic in Littleton, Colo. She is the founder of Cut to the Chase Communication, LLC, a company dedicated to providing “fun, easy, and effective” counseling tools for busy hearing care professionals. She is also the author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss? 5 Keys to Communication Success. Dr. Jessen can be contacted at info@CutToTheChaseCommunication.com.

 

Become a (Hearing) Environmentalist

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Communication is a complex puzzle that requires all pieces to be properly placed. It is critical for audiologists to address all pieces of that puzzle during the aural rehabilitation process to ensure a successful outcome for the patient. A comprehensive counseling protocol should thoroughly address the following five keys to communication success:

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My previous blogs focused on the roles of the speaker and the listener in a communication exchange. Today we’ll address the third key to communication success: environment. No, I’m not talking about the trees and the birds! When it comes to communication, environmental modifications often have the biggest impact, yet they are often overlooked. Let’s take a look at one of the most difficult listening situations for people with hearing loss, and how environmental modifications can reduce potential communication challenges.

The hastily-educated patient:

Mr. Jones and his wife are looking forward to dinner at their favorite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. After a busy day, they rush out of the house at 5:30 p.m., hoping they won’t have to wait too long for a table. They are both starving, so they accept the first-available table, which happens to be in the middle of the restaurant and close to the kitchen. Mr. Jones is still adapting to his new hearing aids and feels overwhelmed by all of the noise. They are surrounded by families with loud children, clanking dishes, and noises from the kitchen. He and his wife can hardly hear each other above all the noise and feel frustrated that they weren’t able to fully enjoy their anniversary dinner. They are both disappointed that his new hearing aids did not perform better in this situation.

The well-educated patient:

Mr. Jones and his wife are looking forward to dinner at their favorite restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. They make a 4:00pm reservation and request a corner booth with good lighting. When they arrive for dinner, they are pleased to find that they nearly have the restaurant to themselves. They are seated immediately, served quickly, and enjoy reminiscing about the past year over a pleasant early dinner. Mr. Jones is pleased that his new hearing aids made it easier to hear his wife’s voice.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which scenario will result in a more satisfied patient outcome. Determine which situations are most challenging for your patients, and help them to develop an “environmental modification” plan for those specific situations. These plans typically incorporate some version of the following two elements:

1. Reducing background noise
2. Improving visibility (ex. lighting, proximity, orientation)

It is our professional responsibility to make sure that every patient is educated and equipped with tools and strategies that address all pieces of the communication puzzle. They must understand that environmental modifications are just as important as the hearing aids. While thorough patient education may take a bit longer in the beginning, it almost always saves valuable clinic time in the end. The resulting patient success and satisfaction certainly make it time well-spent.

 

Dr. Dusty Ann Jessen, AuDis a practicing audiologist in a busy ENT clinic in Littleton, Colo. She is the founder of Cut to the Chase Communication, LLC, a company dedicated to providing “fun, easy, and effective” counseling tools for busy hearing care professionals. She is also the author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss? 5 Keys to Communication Success. Dr. Jessen can be contacted at info@CutToTheChaseCommunication.com.