HEAR­ING

Tak­ing a fam­ily-cen­tred ap­proach

Let's Talk - - Contents - Karen Finch is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and lead au­di­ol­o­gist at The Hear­ing Care Cen­tre. Thee mul­ti­award-win­ning, fam­ily-run com­pany has 23 cen­tres across Suf­folk and Nor­folk. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.hear­ing­care­cen­tre.co.uk or call 01473 230330.

My com­pany prides it­self on be­ing a truly fam­ily busi­ness, but these days that means more than a com­pany where the owner and some of the team are from the same fam­ily. It also means more than treat­ing our pa­tients as if they were fam­ily – al­though we will al­ways try to do that.

What we prac­tice is known as fam­ily-cen­tred care, a strat­egy well-known and used by other health­care pro­fes­sion­als. We do this be­cause we know that the fam­ily plays a cen­tral role in the health of peo­ple who are trou­bled with hear­ing loss.

It isn’t just fan­ci­ful think­ing ei­ther. Stud­ies have shown the nu­mer­ous ad­van­tages of this ap­proach, pri­mar­ily be­cause fam­ily-cen­tred care is based on the recog­ni­tion that hear­ing loss does not only af­fect those who have it, but also those around them. As a re­sult, we seek to in­volve the fam­ily closely in the care process.

Our own ex­pe­ri­ence also tells us that the pa­tient and his or her fam­ily don’t al­ways have the same per­cep­tion about their hear­ing loss and its im­por­tance. When we take this into ac­count and ap­ply a few rec­om­men­da­tions in the dis­cus­sions, all those in­volved can ben­e­fit.

So fam­ily-cen­tred care is why we see the pa­tient and those clos­est to them as part­ners on equal terms as we as­sess, plan and pre­scribe hear­ing so­lu­tions. It is why we pos­i­tively en­cour­age ev­ery­one to bring their spouse, close rel­a­tive or friend to the first con­sul­ta­tion, why at the start of the ap­point­ment we ex­plain that the opin­ions of the hear­ing aid wearer and of the fam­ily are needed, and why we be­gin the process by en­sur­ing the pa­tient and their fam­ily per­ceive the sit­u­a­tion in the same way and are both open to help from our au­di­ol­o­gist. We have the same goal – to im­prove hear­ing and gain a bet­ter qual­ity of life.

We may talk about the changes in life­style, con­straints in joint ac­tiv­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­cul­ties, but also an emo­tional bur­den re­lated to the hear­ing loss of oth­ers. These neg­a­tive psy­choso­cial con­se­quences also af­fect the per­cep­tion of hear­ing loss by the fam­ily and what they ex­pect from hear­ing so­lu­tions.

As our reg­u­lar pa­tients will al­ready un­der­stand, fit­ting hear­ing aids is only the start of the process of re­solv­ing hear­ing dif­fi­cul­ties; it marks the be­gin­ning of a pe­riod of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion where the pa­tient be­comes ac­cus­tomed to the new sounds they are able to hear and, some­times, ac­cep­tance that their hear­ing aids are just one of the tools which will al­low them to com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter in the com­ing days, weeks and months.

If key fam­ily mem­bers have been in­volved in the process from the start, they will have un­der­stood that they need to be part of this re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, maybe even chang­ing the way they com­mu­ni­cate to make it eas­ier for their loved one to un­der­stand.

But most of all they should be a source of en­cour­age­ment to help the user achieve the best from the new life­style op­por­tu­ni­ties bet­ter hear­ing presents.

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