December 4, 2010

Directions: an example of ‘hit’ & ‘miss’ & ‘how rude’

Filed under: Uncategorized — partdeafpartgeekpartgirl @ 6:39 pm

Experiences with audiologists seem to be varied. Some such professionals are helpful and intelligent. If some of my posts so far seem crass or unfairly harsh it is because of strong feelings and I’m sure I haven’t explained clearly enough to the uninitiated.

The reason why I made this blog was because when you you start going deaf it is scary and isolating. You go through a kind of grieving process, so much what you took for granted becomes difficult. When audiologists are ignorant or rude, it really can push hearing loss victims into further depression. When we see an audiologist to obtain a hearing aid or have the settings modified we need some one who at least has an inkling of understanding towards how we need a hearing aid to work, as well as enough training to understand each device.

For those unaquainted, a hearing aid isn’t a simple gadget, it can take a few visits to an audiologist to get one set up as best possible for a patient.

The automatic or ‘normal’ setting is really quite wonderful on modern digital h.aids. I think mine is typical and will adapt to the noise of my surroundings in very clever ways. A constant background noise will be phased out so it doesn’t bother me. A loud noise, such as a baby screaming, will cause it to cut out (compression) so my eardrums aren’t exploded from the amplified sound. There is also a ‘directional microphone’ so if I’m chatting with somebody in front of me it will amplify sound from that forward direction and reduce background noise from the side.

This is really great in relatively quiet situations with a constant background.

Imagine my delight at attending a largish family gathering in a restaurant, just a few days of getting my h.aid. Finally I could join in and not miss anything…

Imagine how heart broken I was to realise that several people talking in an already noisy environment caused my h.aid to constantly change settings trying to focus on some cutlery clacking on plates, people talking on different tables, staff pouring drinks….. To quote someone with the same model h.aid as I wear, it sounded like I was in a crisp packet. I missed pretty much everything, bar a strained bit of conversation with the person immediately opposite and next to me via the help of lipreading. You can’t imagine how upsetting it is to be with those you love and completely miss out like that. (This is why many with hearing loss become withdrawn and may seem unsociable.)

Good news — you can add a directional microphone program to the h.aid so that you can tell it you want to increase amplification in the forward direction, decrease amplification on the sides and STOP CHANGING AROUND WITH EVERY BACKGROUND NOISE. This directional mic program is sometimes known as the ‘pub & restaurant’ program. Some h.aids had this as a separate program by default when automatic ‘normal’ programs were less sophisticated.

So I went back to a drop-in appointment slot to find an audiologist to add this as a separate program for me. She asked why I wanted it, then was happy to activate this for me. I’m angry that it isn’t already on there by default and I’m annoyed that I needed to go into detail about what problems I’d had — now coffee shops, restaurants, any kind of sociable or even work situation are bearable, which should be a given! Ho hum, never mind it was a good end result ….HIT !

A friend with exactly the same model h.aid as I wear (‘crisp packet’ person) went to another drop-in clinic in the same audiology centre that I use. The audiologist said that wasn’t possible with this h.aid ….MISS !

Another friend (with digital hearing aids– analogue are no longer issued on NHS) who also uses the same audiology department as me asked to have a directional mic added as a separate program. This friend was talked down to like a naughty child, being told that there was already a directional mic in the automatic program and a separate directional mic program was not necessary. The audiologist even said “Well somebody’s been talking to you.” i.e. how dare this hard of hearing person speak with other hearing aid wearers and how dare they think they know better than an audiologist. ….HOW RUDE !

These drop-in clinics often have long queues (I’m talking about typical waits of over an hour if you’re not at the front) which is fine, demand is high… I get that. I also appreciate that staff are probably feeling a little stressed from being in demand. But when a patient spends ages waiting around to be misinformed (let alone insulted) that isn’t fair. This is not only because of the frustration from the appointment (if the audiologist is upset from being questioned he or she can go home at night at the end of the day and put it behind them) but because it means the hearing aid wearer has to suffer EVERY DAMNED SINGLE DAY because the particular audiologist they saw was incompetent.

Within the same audiology department: three different audiologists, three different results (only one positive).


1 Comment »

  1. What is their governing body? In other words is there a Society of Audiologists? Have you tried normal complaints procedure?

    Another idea is to contact media. Several hard of hearing test visits would do wonder to the audiologists’ reputation. They deserve it! I am interested now in their training procedure and average profile. Do they need a medical degree?

    I am just shocked by your and your friends experience. It all sounds unbelievably Victorian! Well done for talking about it.

    Comment by NKPA — December 4, 2010 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

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