Although many of us remain up to date with our annual physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we often forget to take into account the health of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to diminish, it takes place so gradually that we scarcely notice and fail to do something about it. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people question what the occupation actually involves.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as a key segment of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct operation of one of our major senses — one for which we have a tendency to take for granted — is preserved or repaired.
Considering that we take hearing for granted, we often fail to understand just how priceless hearing is. With precise hearing, we can improve attention, savor the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen working relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who ensure that this essential sense is functioning correctly.
If you’d like to know more about this interesting but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re thinking of entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for a variety of reasons, but a few primary motivating factors are consistently present. First of all, many practitioners have endured, and continue to experience, hearing problems themselves. Considering the fact that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the urge to repay the favor for other individuals is powerful.
For instance, 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 now able to communicate normally. Appreciating from experience how improved hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was inspired to enter the field and to assist others in the same manner.
Other individuals are pulled into the hearing care field on account of its distinctive combination of counseling, problem solving, science, and engineering. In combination with learning about the science of hearing and the design of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Dealing with hearing loss is a sensitive situation, and patients present an assortment of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to employ the “soft skills” needed to deal with these problems and must work with patients on a personal level to conquer hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the overall appeal of earning a living in the hearing care profession is the fascinating mixture of subject areas covered as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field study interesting topics in diverse fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, as well as courses 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 design and functioning of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, in addition to 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, conducting and interpreting hearing tests, carrying out hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and starting a business.
Hearing care professionals work in various kinds of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varied tasks such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance disorders.
Traditional duties include conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on determining the best hearing treatment, very often including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best match the individual and will educate the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and companies to protect against hearing damage in high decibel work conditions.
The benefits offered most regularly by those in the hearing care profession center on the potential to positively influence people’s lives on a very personal level. Lifelong friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also typical due to the personal nature of care.
When patients declare that they can hear again for the first time in decades, the emotions can be overwhelming. Patients oftentimes report a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, together with strengthened relationships and an elevated overall quality of life.
How many vocations can claim that kind of personal impact?