Starting out as a new professional is an exhilarating, but an intimidating experience. School has served as a safety net where new things were tested, and risks were taken all under the watchful eye of our clinical instructors.
There were no real consequences for making mistakes and plenty of opportunities for second chances. After all, we were just students, and we were still learning. School teaches us how to be audiologists. We learn everything from acoustics to auditory rehabilitation. Our education prepared us for many aspects of being an audiologist, but there are some things you cannot learn in school.
Make It Personal
One of the most difficult struggles a young audiologist must face is how to demonstrate their expertise. It may be challenging to feel like the expert when you may not have fully acclimated to your new role or found your confidence as a professional.
We may feel a need to demonstrate our level of knowledge by overwhelming patients with technical jargon. Though education is an important part of patient interactions, counseling should be a shared experience.
We have all had the “engineer” patient who wants all the details—the number of channels, the different features, and how the feedback manager works—but typically patients want to know how the hearing aid can help them.
It is important to make your consultation personal by speaking about improvements or outcomes that address specific areas of concern or interest to the patient. Use more general terms, as opposed to technical terms, that express benefits in words and phrases reflecting the quality-of-life improvements.
Talk Less, Listen More
Speaking of…well…speaking, do it less. Too often, young professionals get excited about all the things we know and how we can help the patient.
Talking may help us stay on track and maintain control of the conversation to steer it in the right direction, but it may also cause us to lose sight of the most important aspect of the consultation—the patient. Although staying in control of the appointment can be important, it is more important to listen. Listening is a cornerstone to building trust.
How many times have you had the patient where you are the only person they have spoken to all day? They simply want to get to know you and tell you about their family before diving into all the hearing details.
When this happens, you know you have connected with them on a deeper level and are not just their hearing aid provider. Dr. Kris English (2017) suggests that audiologists do not give themselves enough credit when they say, “All I did was listen.” Listening is an intentional and thoughtful decision to direct our attention to our patients. If you do not stop talking long enough to let patients share their stories, you may never make a strong connection.
Have a Strategy
Allowing time for your patient to talk is a wonderful way to gather the information needed to plan your strategy. When given a chance, patients will often give glimpses into their fears and prejudices about hearing loss and hearing aids.
Knowing these points of anxiety will give you the perfect starting point to address concerns before they become objections. Jonathan Farrington’s seven-step guide (n.d.) on overcoming objections says, “The first [strategy] is pre-empting—in other words, by anticipating and responding to the objection before the prospect has even had a chance to voice it.” Use the concerns they have shared to put their mind at ease. Help them recognize your role in their rehabilitative journey.
Do Not Take It Personally
Overcoming objections takes practice and repetition. Even the best of us are unable to sway every person. Hearing the word “no” may feel like a personal rejection. That refusal can sting, even after years of experience.
Even after years of practice, we can sometimes feel the sting of rejection, especially when a patient decides not to pursue treatment. It is normal and healthy to question “what went wrong” and “how could I have done better,” but sometimes patients are just not ready to move forward.
If you have done your due diligence by testing, listening, and counseling, you have done your job. Do not take it personally.
Change is hard, and we may not always know the true reason a person decides not to move forward. Do not give up on the patient either. You can continue to follow up and let the patient know you are available to them in the future.
Always Have Compassion
As audiologists, we must build a thick skin. We become used to the common complaints, rejections, and negative perceptions of hearing aids, and even hearing health-care providers.
Sometimes the mundane nitty gritty of solving people’s problems can wear us down. However, “compassionate” is probably a common adjective used to describe audiologists. We may forget that, though you have heard the same complaints over and over, for the patient, it is their first time. They may be worried, frustrated, or afraid of failure.
We may sometimes forget that each patient is on their own journey, and it is unique to them. It is important to practice being compassionate. Whenever you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, take a deep breath and look at the situation through the patient’s eyes. Reminding ourselves to be compassionate will help us build true, meaningful relationships with our patients.
Keep on Learning
Becoming an audiologist takes more than a degree; it takes experience, practice, and a willingness to learn. School was a great place to start that evolution, but it shouldn’t stop there. The things I have learned over the past several years could not have been taught in school.
We need to experience rejection, be inspired by accomplishments, and plan a way to address a new challenges. Our work settings are now our schools. Here, we cultivate new ideas, hone our skills, and interact with colleagues. Sharing your experiences, both good and bad, with colleagues fosters lifelong learning. Don’t forget, practice makes perfect.
English K. (2017) Patient-Centered Care, part 5/5: Patient Relationships. AdvancingAudCounseling.com. https://advancingaudcounseling.com/patient-centered-care-part-55-patient-relationships (accessed on March 3, 2021).
Farrington J. (n.d.) Overcoming Objections: How and When to Answer the Most Common Objections [Brochure].