The tale of two patients : Why customization is key
To lay out a common situation that occurs in our office, we will tell the fictional but common story of Mr. and Mrs. Canthear who both need hearing aids. Upon testing, we see that both of the Canthear’s have an identical hearing loss, but Mrs. Canthear has an “understanding” level of 60 percent when using both ears while Mr. Canthear has an understanding level of 90 percent using both ears. This means that even with hearing aids compensating for the loss in hearing range, Mrs. Canthear only understands about half of the words presented to her, but it Is a vast improvement over her ability to understand only 25 percent of what is being said without using hearing aids (determined using aided vs. unaided word testing).
Mr. and Mrs. Canthear both want to get hearing aids but both have different needs. While Mr. Canthear could care less about what his hearing aid looks like, Mrs. Canthear wants something discrete (in other words as small as possible) but she also has rheumatoid arthritis which will make using a very small hearing aid more difficult. While Mrs. Canthear understands that the hearing aid and battery will be very small, she wants still wants to give it a try.
Mr. Canthear begins using the manufacturer Y hearing aids, while Mrs. Canthear starts using hearing aids from manufacturer X due to their ability to make the smallest hearing aid in all of the land! After their return visit it is apparent that Mr. Canthear is adjusting well to his hearing aids… he is enjoying hearing again! He does however have an issue with one of the hearing aids coming out of his ear when he chews, the other side is making his ear a little sore, and loud noises make him jump out of his pants. His hearing professional makes the necessary adjustments and sends him on his way with a follow up visit. Subsequent follow up visits result in minor adjustments that result in great fitting hearing aids he is able to use every day.
On the other hand, Mrs. Canthear comes into the office with the hearing aids in her hand. She says she is not wearing them because she cannot manipulate them and correctly insert them into her ear, never mind change the batteries! In addition, when she was wearing them she complained of harsh tinny noises and the sound of her own voice. Her hearing professional knows that many of her difficulties are because of the size of her hearing devices and while a change in programming might help the tinny sound issue, a quick demo with a different manufacturer’s hearing aid reveals that Mrs. Canthear really prefers a more mellow sound. Reluctantly, she agrees to try something different because when she was able to use them, they helped considerably.
After being fit with the alternative hearing aids (a little bigger and easier to handle), Mrs. Canthear is finding it a bit easier to get the hearing aids in her ears and is more satisfied with the sound the hearing aids are providing her with. Placing the hearing aids properly in her ears becomes easier and her hearing professional helps her to learn techniques to insert them properly as well as makes appropriate physical adjustments to the fit to make them as wearable as possible. Mrs. Canthear is doing very well with the hearing aids and although she still misses some things due to the limitations revealed during “aided vs. unaided” testing, communication has been vastly improved through the use of amplification. On a survey 3 months after the initial fitting of the first hearing aids, Mrs. Canthear indicates that she appreciates the hearing professionals willingness to work with her and realizes the importance of working together to find a satisfactory solution that helps her hear better.
Mr. and Mrs. Canthear, although having very similar hearing losses, both had different needs. They had different expectations of what hearing aids were, how they should sound, their appearances, etc… Although they both had similar hearing loss “levels” they both preferred a different sound, necessitating the use of different manufacturers to find the best possible fit. They both also had very different speech discrimination scores, which help to indicate what results could be expected from hearing aids. This is typical of almost every individual in our practice. Many think that a hearing aid is simply a hearing aid to make things louder, but there is much more involved as you can see. We must tailor a solution for every person and while it can take some time and effort, the outcome is a hearing solution that enables that person to effectively communicate all day, every day. You should look for a hearing professional and office with the experience, knowledge, and caring “get it done right” attitude to make all of that happen.