This is a continuation of the last article. You can find Part 1 here. We discussed our less than pleasant experiences with a couple of audiologists dubbed the ‘Bad Audiologist‘ and the ‘Ugly Audiologist‘. Now we move on to the ‘Good Audiologist’ and some lessons that we learned that will be helpful to parents and audiologists alike.
The Good Audiologist
It took us nearly two years to find a good audiologist for our son. We lived in Orlando, FL when he was born. Orlando is a huge city with lots of hospitals and pediatric clinics. There may very well be some great pediatric audiologists in Orlando; however, we did not find them. After many frustrating (some maddening) experiences with various hospitals, clinics and doctors in Orlando we began to explore options in other cities. We spoke with clinics in Lakeland, FL (about an hour west of Orlando) with no significantly better results. We finally ended up with a referral to an audiologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. After meeting and consulting with Dr. Patricia Carr, we were happy to drive the 2 hours each way from Orlando to Tampa.
Dr. Carr was born deaf as well. She grew up deaf. She personally understands deafness in a way that no other hearing audiologist could ever understand it. She has a soft, warm and caring personality that a lost parent really needs. Her goal was to make sure that our son’s hearing loss was properly diagnosed no matter what amount of time it took, as well as, to provide us with the education and understanding that we needed as parents. The facilities in the audiology clinic at USF are modern and clean as well, which makes a huge difference. The environment is warm and caring. The USF clinic has audiologist who specialize in hearing aids, others who specialize in cochlear implants and some who have great experience working children. Dr. Carr was able to accomplish in one morning (even though it was a long morning) what other audiologists could not accomplish at all. In our first visit, Michael was able to endure testing in the booth and Dr. Carr obtained great test results in a relatively short amount of time.
The facilities at the USF audiology clinic were clean, modern, well lit and there were plenty of toys and books. The booths were also very modern and looked more like private rooms than they did sound booths. The toys in the boxes were modern and entertaining. Luckily, Michael was not automatically scared of them and he actually enjoyed seeing them light up. He responded very well to the testing. Leanna sat in the room with him. I sat in the opposite room with Dr. Carr and another intern who were doing the testing and recording the results. I watched a team of people who were passionate about what they were doing and loved working with kids. They were working together to accomplish the task at hand with what appeared to be relative ease. I loved it and I am sure that I even teared up a little bit as I sat there and watched, thanking God that we had finally found someone who was, not only proficient but empathetic, understanding and able to clearly communicate as well. Michael was fitted with ear molds that same day and his hearing aids were ordered. We returned in two weeks to receive his hearing aids. You can check out this post on hearing aids to see some pictures and the video from that visit when Michael heard sound for the first time.
One factor that set this clinic apart while performing the hearing tests was that there were assistants (audiology interns in this case) helping Michael in the booth. Additionally, they played with Michael during the testing making a fun, enjoyable experience for him, versus the scary experiences he had previously. Additionally, it was clearly evident that Dr. Carr and the interns working with her really enjoyed their work and enjoyed working with children. They were passionate about it and that makes all the difference. Also, they took time to clearly explain everything and answered all of our questions. They were not demeaning but respectful. We began recommending Dr. Carr to everyone we met from that point on.
This was a refreshing and joyous day.
Lessons for the Interested Audiologist
Listen – This is important for any health care provider. It is even more important when you are a pediatric provider. It is vitally important to listen to the parent’s concerns and questions. This shows respect and honor to the parent as a person. It should also help guide your clinical decision making. If you are actively listening, then you can understand the course of action that the parent desires. Of course, as the professional, you can certainly recommend a different course of action if you feel it is necessary. Without good listening skills, you will simply frustrate the patient/parent. As a health care provider myself, I try to constantly hone my listening skills as well. I can highly recommend Julia Winston if you would like specialized coaching. Check out her website at Brave Communications and her fantastic blog for timely communication and listening skills.
Converse – Do not be afraid to have a conversation with the parent. We need to know that you are human. We need to know that you understand our situation. We need to know, not only that you are technically skilled but that you are experienced and know what you are doing. Conversation was a big difference between our good and bad experiences with audiologists.
Educate – Unfortunately, patient education is overlooked by far too many providers. I have learned from my own professional experience that taking time to educate the patient about their condition, their treatment options and how to proceed from here is vital to their follow through. Regardless of how much time it takes, this aspect must be included in your care of the patient/parent. As care providers, we ultimately want the patient to make the best decision for themselves. However, it is nearly impossible for that to happen without effective patient education.
Be kid-friendly – If you are a pediatric office, or just an office that happens to see a lot of children, please be aware that children are not small adults. This seems obvious but clearly, it is not! Smile more! 🙂 Be energetic! Play with the kids. Have plenty of toys and books for the kids to play with. Very important: incorporate play into the testing. Michael’s testing with Dr. Carr would not have been possible without this.
Be open-minded – It is okay to have an opinion but be open-minded as well. It is not okay to force a parent into one particular direction, cochlear implants for example. It is good to educate the parents and give them information so that they can make decisions themselves. Certainly do NOT discourage sign language. Whether fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants, the deaf child is still deaf! There is plenty of research demonstrating that sign language does not inhibit development of speech, rather sign language enhances a child’s ability to acquire speech. Whether or not the family will use sign language as a long-term communication solution, it provides parents a way to communicate with their deaf child. There is nothing we want more than just to be able to communicate with our child.
I hope that these articles are helpful to both parents and audiologists alike. If you have found it helpful or enjoyable, please share it with your friends and family on Facebook, etc. You can also sign up to receive email updates from Seeing Life Different using the “Subscribe” button at the top right side of this article.
We hope that you will also join our Facebook page and join in on the conversation there as well. See you there!