Taking Time to Listen

Posted by Living Sounds

As I escorted a new client, let’s call him Jack, back to my office to start his hearing assessment, I note that he held a white cane indicating he had sight problems. When greeting him, I had notice that his face was disfigured and that he had spoken with a speech impediment.

The initial part of the hearing evaluation is an interview process that asks questions about the client’s hearing history, health history and communication concerns. Jack told me that he had no hearing problems but his employer had requested a hearing evaluation as he always spoke too loud at work.  He is on Aish working only a few hours a week washing dishes. He likes his job as it provides a little spending money and a social connection.

While doing Jack’s interview I note that he spoke with a speech impediment that indicated he had had cleft palate. Because the nose, mouth and ears are all connected I wanted to know the history behind the cleft palate. When I carefully asked Jack about the cleft palate, I was taken aback by his answer. “Ya, a few years ago I tried to kill myself with a gun and didn’t do a good job. I just blew half my face off.” He went on to explain that he had lost the right eye completely, that most of his nose was missing and that he had a false plate in the roof of his mouth. At this point I noted that I had been feeling sympathy for him because I thought he had been born with a disfigurement and now that it was self inflicted my sympathy had been replaced by frustration and anger.

Being a professional, personal feelings were put aside and we moved on to the second part of the hearing evaluation, assessing the hearing level. This includes pure tone air conduction, bone conduction and speech testing. The whole time that I was doing these tests I am usually observing the patient and noting how they react and their physical ability which helps me assess their individual needs. Jack had a very good attitude. He was friendly and happy. I also noticed that he often had to repeat things for me as I did not always understand him due to his speech impediment.

Once the testing procedure was over we returned back to my office to discuss the hearing evaluation. Jack had normal hearing and normal speech levels with good understanding. This meant that Jack was not speaking louder because he had hearing loss and was not hearing his own voice. He said “I told my boss that but he never wants to believe me”.

It was at this point that I mentioned to Jack that while doing the hearing evaluation I had notice that I had to ask him to repeat several times as I did not understand him. When he had repeated he spoke very loud assuming that he was not speaking loud enough for me to hear. The issue here was not a hearing problem but a communication problem. Due to the cleft palate Jack’s speech was not clear. If he slowed down and spoke clearer than it was easier to understand him. We also discussed the fact that when people asked him to repeat he needed to remember to repeat in a normal voice. We had solved Jack’s problem allowing him to keep is few hours of employment that added to his quality of life.

My personal reflection is that my job is more than just selling hearing aids. It is about taking the time to listen to each client’s need. Assess their hearing ability and try to find a solution that works for each person. For some client’s price of the hearing aid is very important. For others it is that they do not understand the benefits in the different levels of electronics. My job is to listen to each client and provide with information that assists them in moving forward.

The entire sum of existence is…. The magic of being needed…… By just one other person!

Cathy Robinson BC-HIS

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