Dr. Ryan talks about his journey and self-obligation regarding having healthy hearing. Becoming an audiologist and the path that he took regarding his choice. Discusses the need for patients to address their hearing needs and issues with tinnitus, hearing loss, and upgrading hearing aids.
A Fork in the Road
With Two Very Different Destinations
This article is about an obligation. Most people choose one area to dedicate their time and efforts towards. The HVAC specialist goes to school to learn all things heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. They learn complex thermodynamics; how heat and energy transfer across different materials… how it escapes… how to prevent it from escaping. They learn about electricity and air flow and apply that knowledge to improve the lives of every person in this country. We rely on HVAC specialists to keep us sane in the summer heat and alive in the winter months.
The farmer produces food. The insurance agent gives us peace of mind. The policeman or woman keeps us safe, and the physician keeps us healthy. Each person, each career… all have accepted certain obligations. The ones that take those obligations seriously are the ones we know we can count on when we need their help the most.
So, as an audiologist, what is my obligation? I took the first step on the long journey to a doctorate immediately after high school. Seven years of focused schooling later, here I am. As an Au.D., I’ve learned about all-things hearing. I know the anatomy, the mechanisms, and the different types of nerve cells. I know the physics of sound, and how the brain interprets sound into words. I can detect early signs of auditory tumors, and diagnose hearing loss patterns and tinnitus. Diagnosis is important, sure… but that’s the easy part. The most important part is helping people hear again… helping them connect with their loved ones.
That brings us to the title of this article…. “A Fork in the Road”. This is a scenario I encounter with patients almost every day.
Let’s talk about a made-up patient named Bob. Bob is having some trouble hearing. His wife tells him he needs to get his hearing tested. They find it’s becoming too easy to get annoyed with each other… and his wife has to repeat herself multiple times every day. Bob thinks his partner just needs to speak up… stop mumbling so much. “If she’d just get my attention first and face me head-on when talking to me, we’d have no trouble at all!” he says. His wife knows that isn’t fair. Bob doesn’t have that burden… he can speak with his back turned while walking away from her, and while watching TV… and she hears him just fine. “Bob expects me to drop whatever I’m doing, walk right up to where he’s at, get his attention first, and then speak to him? That isn’t right. I could be doing the dishes, cooking a meal, or doing laundry. So I’m supposed to just drop everything to ask him if he needs his socks washed?”
So what happens next? Instead of struggling to communicate with each other, they simply stop talking as much. They only speak when necessary. Communication is the foundation of any relationship between people. If you can’t communicate with your friends, spouse, grandchildren, or even strangers… what happens? You become withdrawn. You spend your time in isolation. You might be surrounded by friends and family that love and care about you… but if you can’t hear or communicate with them… you feel alone.
When I see a new patient, I’m usually giving them the first hearing test they’ve ever had. I see people at different stages of their journey with hearing loss. Some people see me at the first sign something is wrong. They may have gone out to eat at a restaurant for a grandchild’s birthday. Someone told a joke, and everyone was laughing. They found themselves laughing along, even though they had no clue what joke was said. That one experience helped them realize how important hearing was, and they decided to take control of the situation and get help right away. Most people, however, wait years before making an appointment. After a few years of not hearing well, they begin to adjust to life in a quiet world. They may think it’s perfectly normal to not hear well and say to themselves, “it is what it is”.
My greatest obligation to my patients is to demonstrate that life is too precious to say, “It is what it is” about their hearing loss. My patients and I arrive at this fork in the road together. Through testing, we identify significant hearing loss in both ears. At this point, the ball is in the patient’s court. They choose what to do next. Do they follow the path towards better hearing… the path that leads to reconnecting with friends and family… feeling included at family gatherings… feeling like they are a valued member of the party that has interesting, helpful, and meaningful things to contribute and say? The path that lets them hear their grandchild’s first words…
Or… do they decide to do nothing?
The patient that does nothing… that continues to feel isolated and disconnected… well, that path is less bright. Untreated hearing loss for several years or even decades often has permanent effects. Research of the past few years has led to some firm and consistent results: there is a strong link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline/dementia. It’s like the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. If the brain isn’t stimulated, the hearing systems aren’t being used and you aren’t communicating and connecting with people… the ability to do so becomes weaker.
I write this article for no other reason than to fulfill my obligation as an audiologist. I want to help people take control of their lives. I want to be there to guide them down the path to a brighter future filled with laughs and meaningful conversations and experiences… the path to better memory and a sharp mind. That’s what it’s all about!
Check out my other blogs @https://indianahearing.com/blog/
Name: Amy Harris
Email: Send Email
Organization: Hearing Solutions of Indiana – Kokomo
Address: 315 W. Lincoln Rd. Suite A, Kokomo, Indiana 46902, United States