Today on World Hearing Day we are catching up with Stephen Hunter, Kingsbridge Hearing Care’s Lead Rehab Audiologist about his personal experience of hearing loss and how this drives him to provide the best possible hearing care for his patients.
Stephen, can you tell us more about your personal experience of hearing loss and how this has shaped your career?
“My first experience of hearing loss was with my Dad. Looking back, it is now clear that Dad’s hearing issues started much earlier than any of us realised. As I started to learn more about hearing, as an Audiology student in 2003, I became more conscious of Dad not hearing the indicators in the car, he would often mute the TV when Mum asked him a question and there were also times he misunderstood conversations we’d had.
“Dad loved meeting new people and catching up with friends. I noticed there were times he seemed oblivious when people spoke to him, I often had to nudge him to direct his attention towards the conversation, especially if we were somewhere noisy. I found it really upsetting, I didn’t want to see my Dad, the life and soul of the party, withdrawing from social situations and missing out just because he was struggling to hear.”
How did you approach the subject of hearing loss with your Dad?
“Dad’s case was like many others I have seen, where the slow, gradual deterioration means it’s friends and loved ones who are aware of it first. There were definitely a few conversations where I was told ‘it’s not my hearing, you’re mumbling’ before he agreed to get tested. I now understand he needed time to process my concerns and not only accept the possibility of having a hearing loss but want to actively do something about it.
“When I tested Dad’s hearing, I was shocked at the severity of the loss and it struck me how many coping mechanisms he had unintentionally been using to try to get by. It was clear he needed hearing aids. At that time digital hearing aid technology was still in its infancy and he was excited to be able to give me feedback and help me learn more from a patient’s perspective, as new devices and features became available.
“It’s funny looking back at how he quickly went from being in denial about his hearing issues to being an advocate for hearing aids to anyone willing to listen!”
How has hearing assessment and rehabilitation changed over the years?
“There have been so many changes in technology since the early 2000s. We now have access to more comprehensive diagnostic tests; I feel this is a key component in a patient journey as the more clinical information I can obtain about each person’s audibility and speech processing capabilities, the more I can tailor solutions for each person’s listening needs.
“People with speech processing issues generally hear well with hearing aids in quieter scenarios but experience significant difficulties in noisier environments. One of my goals as an Audiologist is to ensure people are not limited by their hearing loss. Advances in assistive listening devices like Phonak Roger mean even people with severe speech processing issues can follow conversation in background noise with ease.
“Another often overlooked aspect to hearing care provision is the physical difference in ear shape and size in relation to hearing aid performance. Individual ear characteristics need to be measured to provide correct levels of amplification for soft, moderate and loud sounds via Real Ear Measurements. When this is not completed, aids are often under powered, causing a reduction in speech clarity and poorer performance in background noise, resulting in unnecessary frustration for the wearer
“I feel it is my duty to use all the tools at my disposal to give the best possible care to each of my patients. I was able to see first-hand how my Dad’s hearing loss affected not only him but our life as a family. I feel my personal experience of hearing loss has made me a more patient focused clinician and has given me a better appreciation of hearing loss from a patient’s perspective.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing issues, contact us on 028 9066 7030 for an appointment.
More information on Phonak Roger can be found here: https://www.kingsbridgehearingcare.co.uk/phonak-roger-boost-hearing-aids/