Articles abound these days about how private-practice audiologists can distinguish themselves from the “big-box” retailers and other competition. One way to create goodwill for your practice and hearing aids is to get out of your office and start a hearing loop community program.
Hearing loops deliver jaw-dropping clear sound via the telecoil to the ears of our patients in places where even the best of hearing aids are unable to deliver due to distance, poor acoustics, or background noise.
If you want more patients and happier patients, you owe it to yourself and your community to begin a community hearing loop program. This blog will give you the basic building blocks for how to do this. A hearing loop community program will set you apart from the competition, will excite your patients, and will change the way you practice audiology.
How do you get your community in the loop, you ask? Here are some steps to get started:
- Install a hearing loop in your waiting room and read “Roadmap to a Looped Community” in Audiology Today. Successful looping practices include familiarizing each patient with the telecoil benefits, providing a hearing loop handout (or use this customizable flyer), and taking five minutes to demonstrate the hearing loop in the waiting room. Be sure to have a couple loop listening devices with earphones on hand to demo the “wow” effect to your client’s partner, church leaders, and other movers and shakers in your community.
- Locate a reputable, trained hearing loop installer who is familiar with the IEC 60118-4 standard, and familiarize yourself with what is involved in a professional hearing loop installation so that you can offer advice in the community. Your installer must have undergone the necessary training to do loop installations that meet this international standard. Find vendors in your area on org or email me for recommendations. Vet the loop installer’s credentials carefully, and check out at least four or five references. If you are unlucky enough to have nobody in your area who has this know-how, cultivate someone from what you have to work with — a local person who is willing to get trained on looping, has some audiovisual experience, and has an interest in doing well while doing good. Your local “looper” must be willing to keep you in the loop of his installations and refer to you, the local hearing loop expert, for hearing loop dedications and community lectures.
- Getting the first loop installed in your community will take some creativity, your leadership skills, and perhaps a donation on your part, and it will likely not happen without support from your enthusiastic clients. Therefore, your first step is to educate your clients and get them excited. One way to do this is to go through your database and choose patients with moderate hearing loss and with whom you have a good relationship, who are also involved in your community. Invite this small group of “torchbearers” and their significant others to your office for an after-hours demonstration of the loop. Explain to this select group what the loop is, have them listen to it, and get them excited about it. Brainstorm with your group places they would like to see looped. Houses of worship are ideal, as are single-screen cinemas, library meeting rooms, and other venues that host smaller conferences and groups.
- Your torchbearers will need materials they can share with the places you have decided to focus on. Encourage your torchbearers to start campaigning people in power (PIPs) associated with these places. Make your waiting room available for the PIPs to listen to the loop for themselves. Brainstorm with your torchbearers how to fund the looping effort. In the meantime, direct your loop installer to measure the target facility and provide a quote. In some instances, a temporary “test-loop” can help to convince the facility to move forward. This might be the time to offer some earmarked donations to fund part of one or more installations in exchange for recognition of your practice.
Once you get your first loop installed, your next step is to host an open house at the newly looped facility. Show up with loop listeners (you will have purchased these for your own waiting room) and invite everyone! Invite the press, the public, your patients — anyone who can spread the word and get excited about the loop. Have “readers” or an ongoing sound input so that you are free to move about and interact with people coming to the open house. You might even be crazy enough to bring a laptop and programming cables and do some looping setups on the spot. Have packets (see image on right) of information available including a flyer and FAQs about the hearing loop. Have refreshments and door prizes. Get people in your community excited about the better hearing that loops provide! Make sure clear signage is installed to notify the public about the presence of the hearing loop.
- Once you have your first loop, invite your torchbearers to pick your second target. Experienced looping advocates agree with (now retired Audigy member) audiologist Dr. Linda Remensnyder, who said that “loops beget loops.” Once people (and they don’t necessarily have to have hearing issues) in your community see the power of the loop, they’ll get excited and will want their favorite venue looped as well. Keep a list of hearing loops and those venues that have been measured — but haven’t yet been looped — and share with clients, encouraging them to go try the hearing loop at a house of worship. Many of my clients would come back with stories of how well they were able to hear in the loop: “I could hear Father Doug pour the wine into the chalice!” That’s the moment to ask your clients if they would be willing to do one thing to move hearing loops forward. Hand them a copy of the Let’s Loop America’s Worship Centers article and ask them to take a copy to their house of worship (copies are available from most loop vendors or me). Explain that you want to foster hearing loops in the community — compare loops to curb cuts for wheelchairs — and that many loops around the country have been installed because one person took a brochure to their minister/library/senior center requesting a loop installation. Explain that if this brochure is handed to the person in charge, that might be the person who makes a hearing loop happen. Encourage patients to speak up when they are unable to hear in a public venue by offering the Share the Gift of Hearing
- Bring hearing loops to the attention of your community by presenting a “Get in the (Hearing) Loop” lecture to area Rotary Clubs, Sertomaand church groups, or an interview on local radio or community TV. If you are lucky enough to have a Hearing Loss Association of America chapter in your area, you will find that their members will gladly help carry the hearing loop torch — find local chapters here. The American Academy of Audiology offers a free PowerPoint slideshow and an informative patient handout. I, too, share PowerPoints — email me for more information.
- Offer loop listening devices to patients who are not yet in need of amplification or those whose hearing aids aren’t equipped with telecoil hearing aids. The Williams Sound Pocketalker 2 or Comfort Duett have onboard telecoils and are affordable solutions. Be sure to check out and order a few LoopBuds. These special T-coil equipped earphones from comwill transform a smartphone into a loop listening device. This way even CIC and Lyric™ instrument users will be able to benefit from hearing loops!
Adding hearing loops to your community will not only change your practice, it will change your life as an audiologist. Looping efforts will tell your community that you are a cut above your competition and that you care about community communication. You cannot buy the gratitude and goodwill your community will show you from your efforts. Stand out from your competition and become a looping champion in your community.
Questions? Need a letter of support for a hearing loop in your community? Were you asked a question about looping you don’t know how to answer? Need advice about a particular situation that involves looping? I’m happy to help you. Email Juliëtte Sterkens, Au.D., at [email protected].