A Tale of Two Patients with Hearing Loss
This month, I had the opportunity to write an article for Medical Professionals Charlotte Magazine, a peer to peer magazine for Charlotte’s physicians and others in the healthcare community.
Once a hearing loss is suspected, what do the next steps actually look like? Two patients can have vastly different needs and experiences and so this article is aimed to demonstrate two very different patient journeys. The two stories that follow are a conglomeration of patients that very easily could represent one, single patient’s journey.
Patient 1: Mark, 58 year old, banking job, outdoorsy, tech-saavy, smartphone user.
Mark had an incident this week. In a boardroom meeting, he misheard his supervisor reviewing quarterly numbers. He thought the number was “fif-teen”, but it was actually “fif-ty”. This lead to an embarrassing conversation later in the day and he actually decided right then that he needed to get his hearing checked. He knew he was hearing just fine when he was one-on-one, but background noise was his problem. He found out that although he was not yet 60, he had a moderate, high frequency hearing loss and a pair of behind-the-ear hearing aids were recommended.
He decided to move forward with treatment and in a few days he returned for an hour long appointment where the devices were programmed according to his previous diagnostics. His Hearing Instrument Specialist placed probe microphones carefully into his ear canal behind the hearing aids to get a true picture of how the amplification from the hearing aid was being emitted in his own ear canal. This “real ear measurement” would provide quantifiable data, verifying that his hearing loss was being corrected appropriately.
Not one to relish the idea of aging, Mark was thrilled to find that his new hearing aids were not just discrete but would double as a Bluetooth headset. The surprise came when he found out that his hearing aids could track his steps like a Fitbit, could translate up to 30 different languages right into his ear, and they could even be programmed remotely in a telehealth appointment. With a double tap to his ear, he could even access “Alexa”. He wasn’t sure if that was awesome or creepy.
At his follow up appointment, Mark explained that while he was “getting by” before, now he felt his stress was lower in social situations. He would return every 6 months to have his devices deep cleaned and at every anniversary, he would have his hearing checked and aids reprogrammed.
Patient 2: Deborah, 82 years old, retired, basic smartphone owner, loves cards and knitting.
Deborah had her hearing tested about 7 years ago and was told she had a hearing loss that would benefit from hearing aids. She just was not ready at the time, and like many people, she put it off until her primary care provider recommended a hearing exam. Her Moderate-Severe hearing loss had definitely had an impact on her social life already. She had quit her knitting group because it wasn’t any fun to go if she didn’t feel included in the conversation. Though her children had nagged her to get her hearing checked, she didn’t decide to do it until the Doctor that she trusted made the recommendation and she went to the practice he suggested.
Together with her provider, they decided on a pair of custom-in-the-ear hearing aids. The benefit of these were that they would not get caught on a mask, which she had been struggling with already and they were rechargeable so there were no tiny batteries to keep up with. Her provider also connected them in the background of her phone to simply track them by GPS, so if she lost one, it could be found. To fit her aid correctly, her Hearing Instrument Specialist made molds of her ears for custom earplugs. It reminded her of dental impressions she had gotten in the past.
Because Deborah had explained how much she valued simplicity, her aids were programmed so that all she had to do in the morning was to pick them up off of the charger and to put them in her ears. She was given a small remote control to carry in her purse so that if she wanted to raise or lower the volume, she could do so easily with the large buttons rather than trying to find tiny button on the face of the hearing aids. She was given one “bonus” button on the remote so that if she was in an auditorium like the Blumenthal or was in church, she could enable her telecoil which would immediately connect her into the sound system of the facility.
Within the week, she returned to her knitting group and started looking for other activities to get her out of the house. Deborah would return every 6 months for cleaning of her aids and would have her hearing tested annually.
These two patients had different backgrounds, ages, interests and degrees of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes in all shapes and sizes. A candidate for hearing aids, will not always be over 70 years old and they also will not always admit that they are having trouble at first. Still, it is recommended that anyone over the age of 55 have a routine hearing screening.
Hi! I am Madison Levine. I founded Levine Hearing in 2015 with the aim of creating the most respected and effective audiology clinic in Charlotte. Our mission is to: Enrich the lives of others through better hearing. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below!