For every new patient with a hearing loss who walks through your door you’ll hear a few versions of the same story.
“I can’t hear, I don’t want to admit I can’t hear. I don’t want to be here. I’ve heard horror stories about hearing aids and I have access to the Internet which has provided me with half-truths, innuendos and unrealistic price expectations.”
Buying a hearing aid is an emotional experience, but so is selling one. And many times the seller’s lack of joining in the emotion of the experience is what kills the sale. I’m an Audiologist…and have been since 1986. Grasping the concept that what I did for a large part of my day was selling was the hardest lesson for me to learn. Too often we expect the results of the test and our recommendations to be enough. It isn’t.
Your job is to uncover the emotional impact the hearing loss is having on the quality of life of your patient. You need to connect to the patient and a piece of paper with X’s and O’s is not the way to do it. That doesn’t mean the audiogram has no importance, it most certainly does. It tells you, the highly trained professional that most of what will be coming out of the mouth of your patient in the few moments after you complete the test will be a glossy version of their reality.
For example, when you ask a patient with a relatively flat 50dBHL sensorineural hearing loss “Mr. Jones, where do you have the most problem hearing.” And he answers you with the following. “I don’t really notice a problem.” Your first response should not be to pull out a speech banana to show him what sounds he’s missing. Your first response should be. “Mr. Jones, I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know exactly what you can and can’t hear.” You’ve taken a detailed medical history, now is the time to take a detailed quality of life history. By asking questions about the patient’s real world experience you’ll begin to make an emotional connection.
Quality of Life History
- Mr. Jones, What do you do for fun?
- How many grandkids do you have?
- Where do you go on vacation?
- What are your favorite TV shows?
- What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
- How often do you go out to dinner?
- Do you have any hobbies?
The point of this is in how you respond to Mr. Jones when he answers your question. For example, “Mr. Jones, how many grandkids do you have?” When he says, “three”, ask another question because how many is not important…how he interacts with them is. Keeping asking questions…”What do you do with them when you see them?” “What do you wish you could do?” “How does it make you feel when you know you didn’t hear what your grandson said?” You are looking for the proverbial “button to push” and everyone has one.
You aren’t being heartless; the goal isn’t to bring the patient to tears. The goal is to create a compelling reason for the patient to want to solve the problem. Because if you don’t get him to do something about his problem now, he’s likely to wait a few more months or years to try again. He has a problem, that’s why he’s in your office. What he doesn’t realize is that you are interested in what that problem is. More than likely he’s anticipating that you want to “fix” his hearing loss.
Hearing loss (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) is not his problem. His problem is that his favorite grandson no longer wants to be with Grandpa because Grandpa doesn’t understand what he’s saying. Yes, I realize it’s because of his hearing loss, but the difference between, “I have a hearing loss.” and “My grandson doesn’t want to spend time with me anymore.” is huge. Recognize this, understand the problem, solve the problem and you’ll have a patient for life.