While most of us keep up to date with our once-a-year physical, dental cleaning, and eye exam, we typically forget to give thought to the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to decline, it arises so slowly and gradually that we hardly notice and fail to do something about it. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people wonder what the career actually entails.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as a significant segment of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct performance of one of our principal senses — one in which we often tend to take for granted — is maintained or restored.
Given that we take hearing for granted, we often fail to realize just how priceless hearing is. With accurate hearing, we can boost concentration, cherish the details of sound, communicate better, and strengthen family relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who make certain that this essential sense is working efficiently.
If you’d like to discover more about this essential but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re thinking about entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are attracted to the field for a number of reasons, but a couple different key motivating factors are habitually present. First, many practitioners have endured, and continue to endure, hearing problems themselves. Seeing as they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the desire to repay the favor for other individuals is strong.
For example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional practicing in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This could have produced an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is presently able to communicate normally. Realizing from experience how improved hearing leads to a better life, Zoe was motivated to enter the field and to assist others in the same manner.
Other individuals are driven into the hearing care field owing to its distinctive blend of counseling, problem solving, science, and technology. Together with studying the science of hearing and the engineering of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Dealing with hearing loss is a delicate situation, and patients present a number of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” necessary to address these issues and must work with patients on a personalized level to defeat hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the allure of earning a living in the hearing care profession is the fascinating assortment of topics included as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field study interesting topics in wide-ranging fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, as well as instruction in hearing and balance disorders and pharmacology.
- Physics – topics include the physics of sound, acoustics, and psychoacoustics (how the brain processes sound).
- Engineering – topics include the development and operation of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, as well as the programming of digital hearing aids.
- Counseling – topics include how to interview patients, how to teach coping skills, and how to train on the use of hearing aids, as well as other interesting topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, performing and interpreting hearing tests, developing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and operating a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a number of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing various activities such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance problems.
Basic duties consist of conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on selecting the ideal hearing treatment, often including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best match the individual and will train the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with employers and companies to prevent hearing injuries in high decibel work settings.
The benefits quoted most frequently by people in the hearing care profession revolve around the potential to favorably influence people’s lives on a very personal level. Lifelong friendships between patients and audiologists are also common as a consequence of the personal nature of care.
When patients convey that they can hear again for the first time in a long time, the emotions can be intense. Patients frequently describe a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, along with improved relationships and an enhanced overall quality of life.
How many professions can claim that kind of personal impact?