COVID-19 Update

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-AUncategorized

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-A

By now we’ve all learned what social distancing is and are adapting to a new lifestyle. Certainly, once this round of COVID-19 passes us we, are going to have a new normal. I don’t think we’re going to return to operating how we did just a few weeks ago. In fact, I was reading (during my abundant free time) the other day, new borns are now generation C. Meaning they’re born after the virus that changed the world.

I’ve noticed some patterns in hearing and hearing healthcare the past few weeks. As you may or may not know our offices are essentially closed. When we have enough patients needing services, we set up a drive-through clinic. Patients pull up in front of one of our offices at a predetermined time. I come down, meet the patient at their car and pick up their devices. I go back upstairs, repair their devices and bring them back down.

About 75% of the patients calling the office because “they absolutely must come in because their hearing aid is not working” fix the hearing aid on their own. When we call the patient back to let them know what day and time to come, they often say things like “Oh I looked it up and found a video online” “I looked at the instruction manual that came with the hearing aids”. Humans are wired to take the path of least resistance. When it is easier to come see us to get a hearing aid working, rather than spending 15 minutes searching for a solution on Google, most come to the office. When coming to the office involves waiting for a drive-up day to be established, a longer wait time and sitting in a car for a while, most people dig a little deeper and find a solution.

We have noticed this same phenomenon with third party patients. Once the patient’s allotted amount of appointments expires, the patient does not return to the office unless they really need help.

Realistically both scenarios are a more efficient use of resources. I love to see my patient’s and catch up, but, if I’m seeing someone for a simple task that could have been done at home, we have used valuable time that could have gone to someone with a greater need.

Battery usage has gone way up. I’ve shipped more batteries out in the past month than I did last year. Now that people are home in forced close quarters with heir families, they are using more hearing aid batteries. Despite the abundance of studies that show hearing well reduces the chances of dementia and lowers the risk of slip and fall accidents, many people do not use their hearing aids when no one in around. Well people are together more now and either the patient or the patient’s family is insisting they hear was well as possible, all day long! Patients are learning firsthand, the hearing aids may not help as much as the patient wishes they could help, but they absolutely help. Patients are maintaining their hearing aids and using them at a higher level than what is typical.

Social distancing is going to draw some hearing loss deniers out. I was at the market the other day. By the fish counter, they had one of those circles on the ground saying, “please stand here for social distancing”. One customer kept walking right up to the counter, numerous times the clerk said, “sir please stand back on the circle”. Finally the customer said “if I stand back here you can’t hear me” The clerk replied “Sir I can hear you fine”. The customer replied with a typical “Huh? What?” In my best audiologist voice I said “Sir, he said he hears you fine, how can I help you while keeping all of us apart?” I became that customers hearing aid while he placed his order.

The clerk assumed the customer was being ignorant, rude and dangerous by moving in so close. The customer is in denial about his hearing loss. As typical his hearing may have decreased slowly over years, the customer may assume it is normal for everyone to require less than 24 inches of space from mouth to ear to communicate clearly. I knew exactly what was happening in about 10 seconds, not because I am a genius, but because that’s my job. The customer had no idea he was behaving poorly, nor does he realize he has a hearing loss. The clerk probably thought the customer was some old ornery guy that simply does not care.

As I write this, in California many cities are mandating everyone wear a mask in public. If you’re not wearing an N95 mask you are wearing a mask for the people you encounter. The people you see while out in public, they are wearing a mask for you.  (Another way to say or think about it. I wear a mask for you. You wear a mask for me.) I’m relieved that in California liquor stores are considered essential businesses (●’◡’●) There is a woman who works at the wine shop I frequent, she has a hearing loss. Most people don’t realize. I know because of the way she diligently stares at your mouth when you repeat your phone number so she can enter you into their system. I had to repeat my number 4 times for her to get it correctly the other day, and I speak fairly clear and strong. The reality is we may be masked for a year. Do you have any idea how many people have some degree of hearing loss that secondarily read lips to fill-in the things they did not hear?  About 13% of us. We just took away their crutch with the new mask rules. We all need to be a little more sensitive to verbal communication and verbal mis communication while we are masked up.

Lastly, I had a broken sprinkler pipe. I went to Ace Hardware in my neighborhood. They have a 12 foot section with all the little PVC parts you need to repair your sprinklers. I like to keep my 6 feet from other shoppers. There was a woman with a shopping cart standing right in front of the area that I wanted to look at. She was looking down at her phone or a flyer, and she thought she was out of the way, socially distancing herself. I stood about 6 feet away from her and looked right at her for a good minute. She did not get that I wanted to stand where she was. I then said “Excuse me may I get in over there?” She did not hear me. I raised my voice “Excuse me, ma’am, ma’am excuse me”. She still did not hear me. I finally tapped her cart with my cart and said “Excuse me can I get in there?” She shamefully looked at me and replied “Oh my gosh, were you talking to me? I heard somebody yelling but I didn’t realize it was meant for me”. This is a prime example of somebody whose hearing has decreased and they have simply checked out. Nobody else was in her vicinity except me and I was saying “Ma’am excuse me, ma’am”. She did not realize the large man with the loud voice standing and staring at her from 6 feet away was the one yelling. She just heard some random yelling in the background. Her hearing is bad, she knows it is bad and she has decided to simply not even bother paying attention to the sound. For her it is more frustrating trying to decipher what is happening rather than try to understand what is happening.

For the last year or so as I have been espousing the benefits of amplification to keep your brain functioning at its peak level, to give you calmness from tinnitus, to help you maintain upright balance and to keep you engaged and active. I have been doing this for so long, I may have missed the obvious point of amplification. Keeping you connected to those that you hold dear and cherish. Keeping you communicating normally in social situations. Having you be aware of your immediate surroundings. I’m finding this whole Covid19 experience very grounding.