Although most of us stay current with our annual physical, dental cleaning, and eye exam, we notoriously forget to give consideration to the health of our hearing. And when our hearing does begin to deteriorate, it comes about so gradually that we scarcely notice and neglect to do something about it. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people wonder what the career actually entails.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals account for a vital segment of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct performance of one of our principal senses — one for which we have a tendency to take for granted — is preserved or restored.
Seeing that we take hearing for granted, we often fail to realize just how priceless hearing is. With accurate hearing, we can greatly improve attention, appreciate the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen family relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who see to it that this essential sense is functioning correctly.
If you’d like to know more about this valuable but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re contemplating entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for several reasons, but a couple different central motivating factors are consistently present. First, several practitioners have experienced, and continue to suffer from, hearing troubles themselves. Considering the fact that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the desire to return the favor for other individuals is powerful.
For example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional practicing 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 currently able to communicate normally. Realizing first-hand how improved hearing leads to a better life, Zoe was driven to enter the field and to help others in the same manner.
Other people are attracted into the hearing care field as a result of its unique combination of counseling, problem solving, science, and engineering. In conjunction with studying the science of hearing and the engineering of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with individuals in the role of a counselor. Dealing with hearing loss is a delicate situation, and people present a number of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” necessary to deal with these challenges and must work with patients on a personalized level to overcome hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the appeal of working in the hearing care profession is the compelling combination of subject areas included as part of the schooling and training. Those pursuing a career in the field learn fascinating topics in varied fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, in addition to 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 operation of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, along with 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, developing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and managing a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a wide range of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varying tasks such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance conditions.
Everyday responsibilities consist of carrying out diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on selecting the most effective hearing treatment, frequently including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best suit the individual and will educate the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and businesses to prevent hearing injuries in loud work situations.
The benefits quoted most frequently by people in the hearing care profession center on the ability to favorably impact people’s lives on a very personal level. Long-lasting friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also prevalent 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 intense. Patients frequently report a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, together with improved relationships and an improved overall quality of life.
How many professions can claim that kind of personal impact?