Living Well with Hearing Loss

Maximizing communication and improving the lives of individuals with hearing loss

Beyond the hearing test

The following was written by Susannah Townsend, a Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences student who will graduate in the Spring and plans on pursuing graduate school in 2016. 

When I was in elementary school one day every year was set aside for a group of audiologists to come in and perform pure tone hearing test on the students. At the time I did not know how important that screening could be, and I never considered how those tests could influence someone's life. Fast forward to my Junior year of college: I am now a Speech Language and Hearing Science major observing in the University of Arizona’s audiology lab, and I am becoming increasingly frustrated. Here we are with all the equipment we could possibly need to diagnose someone, but it felt like all we were doing was delivering bad news to our clients. I voiced my concern to Dr. Adamovich, and she told me about a rehabilitation program which does more than just give patients a diagnosis called “Living Well With Hearing Loss” (LWHL). 

The LWHL program recognizes how difficult and frustrating learning to adjust to life with a hearing loss can be, and it strives to ease the difficulty of the transition. The program does this by inviting individuals with hearing loss and their communication partners to come learn more about different levels and types of hearing loss, about how to maximize communication with each other and with the general population, and about new and different technologies that may help improve their daily lives.

Helping with LWHL gave me huge insights on how rehabilitation happens in the audiological field, and I had a front row seat to observe the impact the class had on the participants. Part of what is so unique about this program is that it is presented in a group setting, and there is plenty of time to work with the participants individually. This gives people living with hearing loss an opportunity to meet and connect with other people in similar situations, and see that they are not going through this change alone. LWHL also gives the participants a chance to open up about what they may be feeling. A particularly compelling participant with severe hearing loss started the program closed off and sure that there was no hope for him, but he ended the program willing to share his experiences, and open to learning about new technologies. Once he opened up we learned that he was disappointed in the inability of alarm clocks to wake him, so we introduced him to a super loud alarm clock that also comes with a vibrating piece to help wake someone using motion. 

When we provided the participant with a useful tool I could see him light up, and it had a profound impact on me not only as a student, but also as a future helping professional. Through this interaction, and LWHL as a whole, I learned that audiologists do not simply test for and diagnose potential, or current, hearing problems. Audiologists have the opportunity to counsel and help people through what could be a very stressful transition. My experience with LWHL changed the way I viewed the field of audiology, and my desire to be a helping professional in this field is stronger than ever.