We have all heard the phrase that we are more than our diagnosis. That’s because a diagnosis is very one-dimensional. A label that can be applied based on a series of boxes that have been checked off, parameters that have been met. That is true whether the diagnosis is anxiety, cancer or hearing loss.
Just as there are different types of anxiety and cancer, there are different types of hearing loss. However, none of them tell the story of you and how your hearing loss affects your life. Many hearing health care providers are now pushing to change that to provide better care to their patients.
Degree vs. access
If you’ve worked with a hearing healthcare provider, you may be familiar with the phrase “degree of hearing loss.” This may be mild, moderate, severe or profound depending on the results of a hearing evaluation and where you fall on the charts. It is a more black and white diagnosis and hearing health care 101 for providers.
These days, though, black and white degree of hearing loss categories may no longer be personalized enough to be truly meaningful. That’s why evaluating the degree of hearing access along with the degree of hearing loss may become the new norm in the industry.
What is hearing access?
According to Pam Millett P.h.D., the idea of hearing access is all about being able to participate in one’s life. She and others pushing for more comprehensive assessments of hearing loss look to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health model (ICF) as the most relevant framework. This model considers not just the physical disability but also at overall physical ability, activity and participation, and environmental and personal factors to determine how the disability truly affects activities and participation in daily life.
So, how does this translate to hearing loss? To determine the degree of hearing access, hearing healthcare providers look at several different factors including:
- Auditory integrity – What exactly is the hearing loss? What are its unique characteristics? Using a variety of assessments, a hearing healthcare provider determines how an individual can hear speech, volume, tone and even where the sound is coming from. Every person’s hearing loss is as unique as them. The more defined and understood it can be through these assessment tools, the more personalized the treatment can be.
- Amplification integrity – There are a variety of devices now available to those with hearing loss to help improve amplification including hearing aids and cochlear implants. It’s important to consider how well these devices are doing their job for the individual.
- Individual factors – This broad category relies heavily on self-assessment and includes a range of information including age, cognitive ability, self-advocacy and even problem-solving ability in various situations.
- Environment – From the acoustics of buildings to everyday environmental noises that may impact hearing to unexpected situations that are difficult to predict, environmental factors are ever-changing but play a significant role in a person’s degree of hearing access.
More and more hearing health experts agree that a simple degree of hearing loss diagnosis is no longer enough to provide quality care to those with a hearing impairment. A bigger picture of that impairment and the role it plays in an individual’s life is necessary to serve individuals best and help those with hearing loss better navigate and thrive in a hearing world.
Are you having symptoms of hearing loss or have others suggested you get your hearing checked? Contact our office today to schedule a hearing evaluation.