“You Have a Quiet Voice for Someone Who Works in an Audiologist’s Office”
"When do you want to come back?" the receptionist asked me in a voice barely above a whisper. Yes, the waiting room was quiet, but I still struggled to hear her. "When do I want to come in?" I repeated in a questioning way to make sure I heard her correctly.
This process went back and forth several times until we settled on an appointment time. Not the best ending to what had otherwise been a successful and productive trip to my audiologist.
"You have a quiet voice for someone who works in an audiologist office," I said as I gathered my coat to leave. She chuckled as if I had made a joke, and said in the same whispery voice, "Yes, I do. Sorry." My retort: "You should be sorry."
Customer-facing staff should be trained on communication best practices, especially at an audiologist's office!
I met the eyes of the other patient waiting in the office and she nodded in agreement. Talking to the receptionist at the audiologist office can often be a frustrating struggle for someone with hearing loss. It should not be.
Using communication best practices
In my e-book Person-centered Care from the Patient's Perspective, I devote a section to the importance of making an audiologist office hearing loss friendly. This includes things like keeping the office quiet and well-lit and sharing relevant reading material in the reception area.
But the most important tip is to train the receptionist to speak so that we can hear them. A consistently difficult check-in or check-out experience can be the differentiating factor that sends us searching for another audiologist.
There is no excuse for someone who works in an audiologist's office to speak in a way that is hard for people with hearing loss to understand. Using communication best practices is relatively simple and can go a long way towards making interactions with clients informative, meaningful and useful for both sides.
Communication best practices include things like:
- Getting our attention before talking to us
- Speaking clearly and at a steady rate, enunciating each word
- Making eye contact and keeping your mouth visible for lipreading
- Keeping the surroundings quiet and well-lit
- Being prepared to repeat or rephrase what you are saying if needed
- Providing dates, times and financial details in writing
- Suggesting the use of an assistive listening device when needed.
What to do if you can't hear at the audiologist office
People with hearing loss struggle to hear in almost every environment — a loud restaurant, a lecture, a meeting at work. The list goes on and on, but the audiologist office should not be on it. Instead, it should be a place where we can expect our communication needs to be met and our hearing problems to be understood. If you have trouble hearing at your audiologist's office, try these tips.
- Speak up. Let the receptionist know you are having trouble hearing. You can cup your ear with your hand to demonstrate this non-verbally if you prefer. If this does not change the behavior, mention it to the audiologist. Their reaction will tell you a lot about the type of care you can expect to receive going forward.
- Ask for an assistive listening device. Most audiologist offices have simple pocket talkers or other assistive listening devices on hand should patients need them. Asking to use one will help highlight that you are having trouble hearing.
- Use your own assistive device. Speech to text apps are available for most smart phones. My favorites are Live Transcribe (Android only) and Otter, but others exist as well. Pulling out your smartphone will aid with communication and send a message that you require additional help.
- Vote with your feet. Over time, if you do not believe you are getting the respect and type of care that you require, look for another audiologist who operates differently.