Although the majority of us remain current with our yearly physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we generally fail to take into account the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to deteriorate, it develops 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 profession actually entails.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals account for a key part of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the proper functioning of one of our major senses — one for which we have a tendency to take for granted — is preserved or restored.
Considering the fact that we take hearing for granted, we usually also fail to keep in mind just how essential hearing is. With precise hearing, we can greatly improve focus, take pleasure in the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen working relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who see to it that this key sense is functioning properly.
If you’d like to know more about this interesting but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re interested in entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for a number of reasons, but a few key motivating factors are frequently present. First, several practitioners have endured, and continue to experience, hearing issues themselves. Due to the fact that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the urge to return the favor for other individuals is strong.
As an example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This would have produced an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is now able to communicate normally. Understanding first-hand how enhanced hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was determined to enter the field and to assist others in the same manner.
Other practitioners are pulled into the hearing care field thanks to its unique mixture of counseling, problem solving, science, and engineering. Together with learning about the science of hearing and the engineering of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Coping with hearing loss is a sensitive situation, and patients present a variety of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” needed to address these difficulties and must work with patients on a personalized level to beat hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the allure of working in the hearing care profession is the compelling mix of subjects covered as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field master interesting topics in a range of fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, as well as classes 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, in addition to other interesting topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, carrying out and interpreting hearing tests, implementing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and starting a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a variety of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varying activities such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance issues.
Basic duties consist of conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on deciding on the most effective hearing treatment, in many cases including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best fit the individual and will teach the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and businesses to reduce the risk of hearing damage in loud work settings.
The benefits cited most regularly by those in the hearing care profession center on the ability to positively influence people’s lives on a very personalized level. Long-lasting friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also common as a result of the personal nature of care.
When patients convey that they can hear again for the first time in a very 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 improved overall quality of life.
How many occupations can claim that kind of personal impact?