While the majority of us keep current with our once-a-year physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we notoriously fail to think about the health of our hearing. And when our hearing does begin to worsen, it appears so gradually that we hardly notice and fail to take action. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people curious to know what the occupation actually involves.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as a critical part of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct performance of one of our key senses — one in which we have a tendency to take for granted — is maintained or restored.
Due to the fact that we take hearing for granted, we often fail to understand just how important hearing is. With accurate hearing, we can greatly enhance attention, savor the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen family relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who ensure that this vital sense is functioning efficiently.
If you’d like to learn more about this interesting but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re thinking of joining the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for several reasons, but a few key motivating factors are habitually present. First, several practitioners have endured, and continue to suffer from, hearing problems themselves. Seeing as they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the drive to return the favor for other individuals is powerful.
For example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This could have resulted in an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is currently able to communicate normally. Understanding first-hand how better hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was passionate to enter the field and to help others in the same manner.
Other practitioners are driven into the hearing care field thanks to its unique blend of counseling, problem solving, science, and engineering. Together with studying the science of hearing and the design of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Coping with hearing loss is a delicate matter, and patients present an assortment of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to utilize the “soft skills” required to deal with these difficulties and must work with patients on a personal level to conquer hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the appeal of earning a living in the hearing care profession is the stimulating mixture of topics included as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field study interesting topics in various 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 production and functioning 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, in addition to other fascinating topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, performing and interpreting hearing tests, implementing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and managing a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a number of of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varying activities such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance problems.
Common tasks consist of performing diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on identifying the best hearing treatment, often times including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best fit the individual and will train the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and businesses to prevent hearing damage in noisy work environments.
The benefits offered most regularly by individuals in the hearing care profession revolve around the power to positively influence people’s lives on a very personalized level. Lifelong friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also prevalent as a result of the personal nature of care.
When patients state that they can hear again for the first time in ages, the emotions can be overwhelming. Patients in many cases describe a feeling of reconnection to the world and to family, in addition to strengthened relationships and an improved overall quality of life.
How many vocations can claim that kind of personal impact?