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:
- Personal Listening Profile (2004) consists of 2 versions; 80 items or 28 items by discprofile
- Taking Flight with DISC assessment (2011) contains 15 items by Rosenburg and Silvert.
- Listening Style Inventory (2003) contains 10 items by Pearce, Johnson, and Barker.
- The Listening Skills Test (2014) contains 10 items by In-Tuition Learning and Development.
- Listening Skills Test (2011) contains 33 items by PsychTests AIM, Inc.
- The Communication Quiz (2014) contains 15 items by Mind Tools.
- Listening Skills Quiz (2014) contains 36 items by Newline ideas.
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.