While the majority of us remain current with our yearly physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we typically forget to give thought to the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to weaken, it takes place so gradually that we hardly notice and fail to take action. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people wonder what the profession actually involves.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as a significant part of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct operation of one of our principal senses — one in which we have a tendency to take for granted — is maintained or repaired.
Because we take hearing for granted, we usually also fail to realize just how critical hearing is. With precise hearing, we can improve attention, appreciate the details of sound, converse better, and strengthen working relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who ensure that this vital sense is functioning correctly.
If you’d like to learn more about this interesting but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re thinking of entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are driven to the field for numerous reasons, but a couple different primary motivating factors are consistently present. First, many practitioners have endured, and continue to suffer from, hearing complications themselves. Considering that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the need to repay the favor for other people is strong.
As an example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This could have led to an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is presently able to communicate normally. Knowing first-hand how improved hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was motivated to enter the field and to help others in a similar manner.
Other practitioners are pulled into the hearing care field because of its unique blend of counseling, problem solving, science, and technology. In addition to studying 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 an assortment of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” necessary to manage these issues and must work with patients on a personal level to beat hearing loss.
Training and education
Part of the allure of working in the hearing care profession is the compelling mix of subject areas included as part of the schooling and training. Those pursuing a career in the field master fascinating topics in varied 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 creation and functioning of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, as well as 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, as well as other fascinating topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, carrying out and interpreting hearing tests, employing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and starting a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a diversity of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing diverse tasks such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance issues.
Conventional duties consist of conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on finding the optimal hearing treatment, often times including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best fit the individual and will instruct the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with employers and businesses to reduce the risk of hearing injuries in noisy work locations.
The benefits reported most frequently by those in the hearing care profession revolve around the potential to positively influence people’s lives on a very personalized level. Lifelong 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 ages, the emotions can be intense. Patients often describe a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, in addition to improved relationships and an elevated overall quality of life.
How many vocations can claim that kind of personal impact?