While many of us keep up to date with our yearly physical, dental cleaning, and eye examination, we often fail to think about the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does begin to weaken, it happens so gradually that we barely notice and fail to take action. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people curious to know what the profession actually entails.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as an important component of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the correct functioning of one of our key senses — one for which we tend to take for granted — is maintained or repaired.
Considering the fact that we take hearing for granted, we often fail to keep in mind just how invaluable hearing is. With accurate hearing, we can greatly improve concentration, take pleasure in 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 properly.
If you’d like to learn more about this important but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re looking into entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are attracted to the field for numerous reasons, but a few key motivating factors are repeatedly present. First, several practitioners have endured, and continue to experience, hearing problems themselves. Because they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the desire to repay the favor for others is powerful.
For example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This could have produced an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is now able to communicate normally. Knowing first-hand how improved hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was driven to enter the field and to help others in a similar manner.
Other individuals are enticed into the hearing care field as a result of its distinctive combination of counseling, problem solving, science, and technology. Together with 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 delicate situation, and patients present a variety of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to apply the “soft skills” necessary to deal with these problems and must work with patients on a personal level to beat hearing loss.
Training and preparation
Part of the allure of earning a living in the hearing care profession is the stimulating combination of subject areas included as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field master interesting topics in numerous 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 development 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, as well as other interesting topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, conducting and interpreting hearing tests, developing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and starting 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 problems.
General tasks consist of carrying out diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on selecting the best hearing treatment, often times including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best match the individual and will instruct the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and companies to reduce the risk of hearing injuries in loud work conditions.
The benefits mentioned most frequently by those in the hearing care profession revolve around the potential to favorably impact people’s lives on a very personalized level. Long-lasting friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also common as a consequence of the personal nature of care.
When patients convey that they can hear again for the first time in ages, the emotions can be overwhelming. Patients frequently report a sense of reconnection to the world and to family, as well as strengthened relationships and an improved overall quality of life.
How many occupations can claim that kind of personal impact?