Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest objection to wearing hearing aids that Lions Hearing Clinics hear is: “I am too old to wear hearing aids.”
Some might have thought that the appearance and stigma of wearing a hearing aid might be at the top of the list, so to get a better idea of what it’s really like wearing a hearing aid, the team at the Lions Hearing Clinic decided to spend a month wearing them. Lions Hearing Clinic is part of Ear Science Institute Australia.
They chose a new range of hearing aids, the Phonak Audéo Fit devices which include a heart rate monitor, track distance walked and has a step counter, which Lions says helps to promote healthy habits and create a greater sense of well-being when paired with the myPhonak app by tracking heart rate, steps and activity levels.
While most of the team don’t have hearing issues, it was an opportunity for them to experience life as a hearing aid wearer – witnessing some of the everyday issues faced by wearers like forgetting to take it off for a shower or wearing it at the gym.
The aim was for clinicians to be able to empathise more with clients and provide them with valuable tips and tricks that they learned from the exercise.
Chief operating officer of Lions Hearing Clinics, Lize Coetzee, says nearly 466 million adults have trouble hearing worldwide, but only about 50 per cent of people with hearing loss use a hearing aid.
“We want to put hearing help in the mainstream,” she says.
“When people find out they have a hearing loss, it often progresses, and they wait up to seven years before they get hearing aids, so we want to give people the motivation to take a step sooner rather than later.”
Delayed help for hearing loss can affect someone both physically and emotionally. In addition to loneliness and anxiety, untreated hearing loss is also linked with falls and dementia, Lize said.
Lions staff turned the month of September into the STEP-tember challenge with the audiologist and administration team wearing the hearing aids for the month.
Clinic manager, Holly Menegola says the team wanted to shine a spotlight on the physical and emotional impact of hearing loss and give them an experience to help them provide practical advice and support for clients.
Over the month, everyone tracked their steps and activity and kept a diary of their experience.
Audiologist Lauren Sabatini said she was initially self-conscious wearing a pair of Phonak Fit devices.
“What surprised me the most was how quickly I got used to wearing them. I felt very conscious at the beginning, but after a couple of weeks, I realised that hardly anyone noticed I was wearing them,” she said.
Staff member Jessica Yiannos who won the step challenge with nearly 240,000 steps during the month said the Bluetooth streaming functionality of the hearing aids were great at the gym or on her commute listening to music.
It’s also fortunate that the hearing aids are waterproof given that she forgot to remove them on a couple of occasions when she had a shower.
Client support team member Ben Lake said the exercise had helped him realise what audiologists mean when they say the sound is different.
“This experience gave me a new appreciation for what our clients experience and has helped me to really help them, as I now understand what they are going through,” he said.
“This experiment in the clinic has helped the team provide world-leading client-focused hearing care as they now have lived experience of hearing loss and wearing hearing aids,” Lize said.
“As the festive season draws closer, I encourage everyone to take a moment to think about all the little conversations you missed last year.
“Did you miss your grandkids telling you about their end-of-year school concert? Did you miss the discussion in the car on the drive home from the Christmas lunch? Don’t miss out this year.
“From now until Christmas, take advantage of an immediate hearing aid fitting and walk out of your clinic with your new devices to try in your life. The new range will give you the confidence and motivation to hear well and live your best life,” she said.