GN Hear & Now


Going Beyond the Audiogram

For many years, the focus of most clinicians at an initial appointment was on obtaining an accurate audiogram. From this point, we were then able to explain the results to the individual and advise on what the most appropriate solution was (typically involving hearing aids). However, current research points to the fact that the best rehabilitation outcomes are achieved when the focus shifts away from the traditional practitioner/product-centred approach, to a person-centred approach. Put simply, our focus should be on solving people’s problems, not solving people’s audiograms.

So, what exactly is “person-centred care” in audiology, and how would you go about implementing this service delivery model in your clinic?

Person-centred care is a way of thinking and doing things that sees the people using health and social services as equal partners in planning, developing and monitoring care to make sure it meets their needs.  In person-centred care, optimal outcomes are achieved with input and accountability from the individual and other professionals working collaboratively. There are a number of key elements that make up the person-centred care delivery model. However, at the very heart of person-centred care is the need for effective communication between the clinician and the individual as the decision-making process is being shared.  

If we want to implement a model of a person-centred care in our audiology practise, it is paramount we constantly review the way in which we communicate with our clients.  We need to ensure it is contributing positively towards our client’s taking action to achieve an outcome that meets their needs.

Listed below are several key tips that research has shown lead to more effective communication in the clinic. The beauty of these tips is that they are simple, and can be easily implemented in the consultative process by you as the clinician:

  • Build trust and rapport: The foundation of effective communication is the ability for the clinician to establish trust and rapport with their client. Only from this foundation can the honest exchange of ideas and information flow between the clinician and the person seeking care. There is a lot of information out there on the various ways trust and rapport can be built. If you’re keen, I’d encourage you to go and read some more about these two key concepts.
  • Listen!: Communication is a two-way street. This seems an all too simple concept. But as clinicians it is an easy trap to become too focussed on getting our tests done and delivering the results, so we miss the opportunities to engage with and better understand the needs of our clients.
  • Lose the jargon: Use the appropriate “plain” language and terms for your audience, and if appropriate use visual aids to assist with the communication of this information.
  • Use Decision Aids: Using decision aids can assist with the shared decision-making process. This is where both the clinician and the individual exchange information about the scale and scope of their difficulties, express the preferences of intervention options and collaborate on the implementation and evaluation of a solution.

An example of this might be the use of a decision matrix table (see below).

 Benefits of taking action Benefits of taking no action
Drawbacks of taking action Drawbacks of taking no action

This week, why not take some time to reflect on how effectively you are communicating with your clients. By refining some simple processes in your consultative process, you should be well on the way to implementing a more person-centred model of audiological care in your practice.

Jonathan Constantine, Area Manager QLD & Northern NSW

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