As I was reading over the latest articles in hearing health care I came upon an old friend. The topic of auditory training. Auditory training is rarely brought up in audiology office and probably never discussed outside of audiology. But it is important for people with hearing loss to know that they can train their brain to hear and listen. Hearing is an act that we do passively; listening however is active. Our brain is always searching our world for sounds and allowing us to “hear”. Whether or not we focus on the sounds is irrelevant. When the brain is scanned for neural responses to sound it reacts whether we attend to that sound or ignore it. Attending to and focusing on a sound will cause more parts of the brain to react and this is called “listening”. Listening is a skill that we all have to work to keep sharp. People who have hearing loss often stop working at listening because it is too difficult and causes fatigue or frustration. Once hearing loss is evident, listening becomes even more critical. And the practice of listening skills becomes even more important.

When it comes to hearing loss and hearing aids, most hearing aid users would look to the device to make communication better. While hearing aids can improve hearing… they cannot improve listening.

The article I was reading quoted “Unfortunately, many of our patients want the device to do all the work for them, and are not willing to invest the time needed to develop the new skills that will improve their communicative abilities.” And went on to say that audiologists are not interested in promoting a service that patients do not want and therefore it is largely under utilized. I am sad to say that I have the training, skills and tools to provide this service in my office and time and time again my patients refuse to make the time investment. So, currently I only recommend the treatment when problems arise when ideally this treatment would be part of the initial adaptation period for every new hearing aid user.

I hope for brighter days when “hearing aid consumers” act more like “patients of hearing health care.” I do not know when or if this day will come but research in hearing science uncovers over and over again that hearing care is not a simple thing. My degree is a testament to this fact, as I spent 8 years in college devoted to the learning of audiology in completing three degrees and thousands of clinical hours with patients. Still I hear “consumer questions” instead of “health care questions” from my patients. Still I see people price checking for hearing care as if they were purchasing a new refrigerator instead of a life changing service.

I know that audiologist are underutilized and I understand how this came about but audiologists are the providers most specialized in hearing. I hope that some day “audiology” becomes a household name and people find their audiologist not through ads for hearing aids but through their primary care doctor or their insurance company or perhaps through the American Board of Audiology which records all audiologists who voluntary strive to a higher standard of care.

This blog gives an insight to my own personal and professional frustrations. I’ve been on both “sides of the fence” so to speak. I am a hard of hearing consumer and user of hearing aids (grew up with severe hearing loss) and I am an audiologist and doctor to the hearing impaired. The more I am educated about my field and the consumers I work with, the more I realize how under educated the public is and how much I desire to change this.

Please let me know what you think of this blog and share your feedback. Email me at [email protected].

Other Resources:
LACE Aural Rehabilitiation Program, University of California at San Francisco

This blog posted by Suzanne Yoder, Au.D. Doctor of Audiology and owner of HearWell Center. Please visit our website for more information