The American Academy of Audiology states that its mission is to “promote quality hearing and balance care by advancing the profession of audiology through leadership, advocacy, education, public awareness, and support of research.” Their Standards of Practice for Audiology were developed to serve this mission. As a refresher, here is a quick summary of those standards.
As an audiologist, you are personally responsible for your own professional development, as well as the quality of the services you provide. Continuing education is a must in order to progress your knowledge and skills. Your patients depend on you to have the right answers to every question. When addressing groups, be certain you have the most up-to-date materials you can refer to, and then pass along to interested parties.
Ensure that the screening methods you utilize in your practice are reliable, valid, and current. Testing should be age and culturally appropriate, and also needs to be adapted for physical, emotional, and cognitive ability. Be certain your auditory and/or vestibular impairment screening methods are thorough and include your observational measurements, input from the patient, and behavioral or electrophysiological measures. Maintain a follow-up file so you have information handy when patients you refer for further assessment and treatment return.
Be sure to investigate any and all reports from patients concerning impaired hearing, dizzy spells, bouts of imbalance, tinnitus symptoms, changes in speech or language, trouble processing speech and noise, and sudden changes in job or classroom performance. Perform a thorough examination of the ears, check cranial nerve function, and evaluate the patient’s cognitive abilities to screen for neurological impairment. Apply your critical thinking skills to evaluate the status of each patient and monitor auditory, vestibular, and other central nervous system function to advise other practitioners about treatment outcomes.
Diagnose hearing loss and identify the potential source of auditory disorders, such as the aging process or exposure to noise. On the rare occasion you conclude that your skill set is not adequate to serve a patient’s needs, refer them to another practitioner who can help.
Establish and implement appropriate treatment for each patient based on your assessment results and the need for medical or other provider referral, while also considering the needs and wishes of the patient and their caregivers. Counsel patients and, when appropriate, their families about assessment results. Also present any health and communicative implications using language and written materials appropriate to the cultural and healthcare literacy attributes of the patient. And, after thoroughly discussing test results and answering questions, come to a mutual agreement on the course of treatment. Then, if appropriate, recommend and properly fit hearing aids, implantable devices, or other technologies. Continue to monitor the patient and schedule appointments to see them on a regular basis.
HEARING LOSS PREVENTION
Hearing care professionals are tasked with identifying individuals who are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels, and are also responsible for developing a program to educate them on ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Audiologists promote the availability of hearing-protection devices for individuals exposed to potentially damaging levels of noise. Be proactive in recommending environmental modifications to minimize adverse noise exposure risk.
Audiologists need to seek out and provide services that have a basis in scientific evidence whenever possible. You should generate or participate in basic or applied research activities in order to increase your own knowledge and, at the same time, have the factual resources at hand to inform and educate your local community about hearing loss prevention.
ABOVE ALL, BE A TEAM PLAYER
Become a partner with your patients. Be their guide through the maze of hearing enhancement products. Never base any discussion about hearing aids on “What is your budget?” Instead, present all the alternatives, the plus-and-minuses of each product, and which ones are the most appropriate for their degree of hearing loss. Let them make the decision using the information you give them. If they ask for further input from you, be honest and keep their best interests in mind. You do that and all the other “best practices” mentioned above will have quietly played a significant role in your actions.