Betty Troeger bought her first pair of hearing aids in 2000, but she only recently learned how to use them to really improve her hearing.
After buying her third pair of hearing aids from the University of North Texas Speech and Hearing Clinic, Troeger participated in the university’s first-ever aural rehabilitation classes for people with new hearing aids.
Through a series of classes this spring, she learned how the hearing aids work and how to maintain them. She also learned better communication methods for when she can’t hear clearly, such as where to sit in a restaurant and how to get people to rephrase questions when she can’t understand them.
“When you’re hard of hearing, you have to stay abreast of this information, because otherwise you withdraw from the world, and that’s bad mentally for older people,” she said. “In the long run, I really do want to keep communicating with the world.”
Danielle Bryant, a student at UNT, secured the funding for the first series of classes this year, under the direction of Lana Ward, the clinical supervisor. Ward has wanted to hold the classes for years, but Bryant was the first student to take initiative to start the program, Ward said.
To help jump-start the project, Bryant applied for and received a Community Renewal Fund award from the school, which gave a $3,000 cash stipend for startup costs.
Bryant said she wanted to get involved because a lot of hearing clinics don’t follow up with customers to help them optimize their satisfaction.
“Instead of having to keep coming back to an audiology clinic with problems, you can take care of your hearing aids and problem-solve [for] yourself,” she said. “It’s just so much information when you get hearing aids, that it’s hard to let everything sink in.”
The class covered some basics and more complicated subject matter, focusing on items that were relevant to the half-dozen clients who participated in the program, Ward said.
“There’s a lot of information that we tend to take for granted as audiologists and professionals in this field,” Ward said. “So I think Danielle put it in terms that the patrons could understand in a way that was relevant to their lives. She really built it around them.”
The program won’t be held this summer, but Ward and Bryant are looking at ways to improve the program for the fall. To start, Ward wants to include the classes in a package provided to people who buy hearing aids through the UNT clinic.
Troeger agreed it would be helpful to offer the follow-up classes routinely. She now is trying to tell her brother and sister — who both wear hearing aids — what she learns in class. They haven’t received any training in how to maximize the benefits from their hearing aids, she said.
“This far exceeds any other services or training I’ve had on using them,” Troeger said. “You get really good service when you’re being tested, or when you buy hearing aids, but not this opportunity for continuing education.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.