Although hearing loss is a common condition that is more understood and treatable today than ever before, many people who could benefit from the use of hearing aids do not use them. Hearing aids can not only improve the hearing ability of these individuals but also help with the social withdrawal, loneliness, and depression that often accompanies hearing loss. How these people deal with emotions may be a factor that contributes to hearing aid usage.
For an audiologist to fully understand a patient’s internal and external emotional challenges, they need to have effective communication with clients to identify underlying issues that may influence the client’s behavior. However, research indicates that hearing healthcare professionals may not be focusing on understanding emotional client challenges and instead are focusing on technical difficulties. Communication that addresses the emotional aspects of hearing loss has positive effects on patient treatment compliance. Involving patients in their care, discussing their concerns, and decreasing any misunderstandings can lead to more successful treatment outcomes.
This study sought to discover how patients feel about completing a screening concerning their struggles with depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as how hearing healthcare professionals felt about performing the screening. Patients and parents of children with hearing loss took part in the study. Adult clients and parents of pediatric clients completed a demographic form, the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and a feedback form. When a score demonstrated mild or more significant symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress, particularly if the client perceived that the signs were persistent, counseling or medical referrals were part of the plan. The research team noted three things in the study:
The majority of patients scored within the normal range for depression, anxiety, and stress on the DASS screening questionnaire. A high number of patients who completed the feedback form indicated that the screening experience was positive.
The clinicians were in general agreement about the ease of implementing the screening. They agreed that it was not time-consuming, and it was suitable for a hearing healthcare practice. Hearing healthcare professionals can recognize challenges such as depression and how it affects the management of hearing loss through tools such as the screening. These challenges will be present regardless of whether the practitioner is aware of them or not. It is useful to know if life stressors are influencing the treatment regimen prescribed by the hearing healthcare professional.
Providers must initiate a conversation with patients regarding hearing loss management. This talk includes addressing any emotional issues that the patient may be experiencing. A comprehensive hearing evaluation should consist of tools such as the DASS to help practitioners identify the presence of any emotional challenges that may be interfering with effective hearing healthcare.