COUNSELLING THE WELL-INFORMED PATIENT
The number of well-researched patients has been growing lately. Learn why they can either be your biggest nightmare or your best friend.
New York-based audiologist Dr. Ellen Finkelstein sees a range of clients walk through the door of East Side Audiology. Some barely know how to use a hearing aid and others have done so much research that you would think they have a degree in audiology. This crop of well-researched clients has been growing lately, Finkelstein says, and according to her, “they can be your biggest nightmare or your best friend.
Digital diagnosis has been made easier with the onset of smartphones that allow people to carry a medical encyclopedia in their pocket. For hearing health, a few clicks can get you sites selling cheap hearing aids, horror stories about leaking batteries, and a hearing aid hacking how-to. While a good dose of information is good for the client, sometimes clients ignore the audiologist’s advice in lieu of faulty online information.
The Internet as your partner
Finkelstein says that clients are increasingly going online or having their children research for them. The observation matches an overall trend. A 2002 study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that 66 percent of internet users searching for health information online were searching for information about a specific disease or problem, like hearing loss. Issues involving retirees are especially prevalent, with 12 percent searching for long-term care for an elderly person and 17 percent looking up information about memory loss or Alzheimer ’s disease.
Fifteen years ago, hearing professionals were the only source of information for those needing hearing aids. The trust and value of their knowledge was paramount. Now, with thousands of information sources just a click away, hearing professionals could play second fiddle to the internet.
Audiologists should think of the internet as a partner, rather than an enemy, says Audiologist Juliëtte Sterkens, the president of Wisconsin-based Fox Valley Hearing Center. Searching online can be a great way to learn about products and become more comfortable with the idea of wearing a hearing aid.