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Better Communication and Hearing Aids: A Guide to Hearing Aid Use

Better Communication and Hearing Aids: A Guide to Hearing Aid Use

RATING: (5 of 5 ears)
AUTHORS: Donna S. Wayner and Judy E. Abrahamson
PUBLISHER: Hear Again, Inc.
ISBN: 0-9664780-4-5
COST: $10.00 (softcover)

REVIEWER: Connie J. Barker, PhD, Lamar University

SYNOPSIS: This 51-page book is a manual for adult consumers to learn basic information about hearing aids, communication strategies and speechreading. Information is presented clearly and concisely in list, tables, and diagram formats using a slightly large-print font. A few exercise worksheets are included to practice applying the information to the individual consumer's needs. The pages are duplicates of the teaching materials in the authors' curriculum entitled Learning to Hear Again: An Audiologic Rehabilitation Curriculum Guide, 2nd ed. Although this book could be used alone and distributed as rehabilitative educational materials to consumers, family members and other communication partners (i.e., employers), its effectiveness would likely be greater when used in conjunction with individual or group audiologic rehabilitation sessions.

REVIEW: This guide is divided into three sections of approximately equal length. The first section entitled Hearing Aid Operation and Adjustment reviews the different kinds of hearing aids and their parts, function and operation. Large simple uncluttered ink drawings of each hearing aid are used. Instructions about how to use the telephone with a hearing aid are provided, along with basic tools and techniques to care for and maintain hearing aids. However, the most important characteristic of this section is that the first three pages involve how to adjust to wearing a hearing aid over a four-week period, providing a long list of easier to difficult listening experiences or "Hierarchy of Listening Experiences." This approach immediately addresses appropriate expectations of hearing aid benefit. In addition, it sets the tone for the remainder of the book, which emphasizes that proper use of a hearing aid is only part of effective communication.

Section two presents information about communication strategies, beginning with background material on the role that hearing plays in the social and emotional aspects of life. The impact of hearing loss on social relationships and emotions as felt by the hearing impaired individual and the communication partner are listed and graphically displayed in pie charts or "emotion wheels." Reasons for communication difficulty are listed under the categories of listener, environment, and speaker factors. Lists of listening tips and communication strategies are presented repeatedly according to several perspectives: the hearing impaired listener in general communication situations and then in employment situations, the person speaking to the hearing impaired person in general communication interactions and then as a co-worker. A final repetition of strategies is presented from the perspective that "good communication involves action" from the listener and from the speaker. The last three pages of this section have exercises for the consumer to practice the best seating arrangements in a restaurant, identifying problems and possible solutions to specific communication situations.

The third and final section covers an introduction to speechreading. This is confusing because only the first three pages relate to visibility of speech sounds, basic rules of speechreading and some practice guidelines. The remaining fourteen pages return to information concerning hearing aids. Guidelines are provided for checking and troubleshooting hearing aids, hearing aid insurance, and resources (i.e., self-help groups, readings, assistive listening devices and communication access). The last three pages are chart forms to record hearing aid use and perceived benefit, and instrument service record. Perhaps this ordering relates to the type of information typically presented during the last rehabilitation class session or the final follow-up visit after dispensing a hearing aid.

CRITIQUE: The book is an excellent guide for explaining basic communication information to adults living with hearing loss. The format uses concise lists and outlines, using a slightly large-print font and large uncluttered diagrams. This presentation is good for persons with impaired vision and for making overhead transparencies. The ordering of material in the last Speechreading section could be confusing for some readers but troubleshooting hearing aids is often a final counseling topic. The contents are a compilation and modification of previous materials by Sam Trychin, Harriet Kaplan and Scott Bally, and other authors of rehabilitation texts. Also, the practitioner can obtain similar materials from multiple Internet sources. However, the useful advantage to using this book is that it gathers all of those individual handouts into one relatively inexpensive, organized, easy-to-understand document, which can be used alone or with its companion, Learning to Hear Again, a curriculum guide for audiologists and speech-language pathologists.