GETTING help with hearing loss is all about improving communication and gaining clarity, says Dr Bill Vass, principal of Dr Vass Hearing Clinic.
With 40 years’ experience in the hearing industry and the longest-serving private practitioner in Canberra, he says that while people think nothing of having an eye test or wearing glasses to correct their vision, the idea of having a hearing test and facing up to hearing issues is still not comfortably accepted.
“Hearing loss is identified as an elderly person’s issue and it is associated negatively with ageing. That’s not necessarily true. Generally, people don’t want to admit they need hearing help.
“I say to patients, I wear glasses to improve my eyesight. It doesn’t mean I am blind!” says Dr Vass.
“Wearing hearing aids doesn’t mean the person is deaf, it means you are seeking better clarity and improved communication.”
He encourages people to take a hearing test with a qualified practitioner, as the benefits of using a hearing aid, should a person need one, are life-changing.
Dr Vass says that Hearing Awareness Week (March 3-9) is a chance to bring the issue of hearing loss to the community. As the first of only 20 doctors of audiology in Australia, with vast experience gained throughout his career, Dr Vass is a specialist in the field of hearing.
“Some patients put up with hearing loss year after year and they create many excuses for their problem, such as ‘everyone mumbles’,” he says.
“Having a frank and honest conversation with a loved one about their hearing is important to try to get them to admit they need a hearing test.
“That’s why Hearing Awareness Week helps raise the issue and increase awareness.”
Patients have the certainty that they will be seeing Dr Vass when they visit the clinic and that he will provide one-on-one, tailored care and advice.
However, Dr Vass warns that the hearing aid industry is unregulated and that anyone can sell hearing aids, without formal training in audiology.
The recent surge of retail hearing aid sales and the dominance of multinational companies, paying staff high commissions for making sales, has created problems of rogue providers within the industry, says Dr Vass.
“People are being bullied into buying expensive hearing aids and, in some cases, sold a hearing aid when they don’t actually need one,” he says.
“People are unaware of their rights with regards to the government scheme. There’s no such thing as a ‘free’ hearing test, it’s a gimmick to get people in the front door. These multinational companies may or may not have their patients’ best interests at heart.”
Dr Vass’ approach is to extensively consult, test and match his patient with the right hearing-aid technology, or not at all if they don’t need a hearing aid yet.
The best part of Dr Vass’ job is seeing how his patients’ lives can be turned around once they make the step to get their hearing tested.
“My patients can be depressed, isolated and angry. Hearing loss can result in communication breakdown and when they finally receive appropriate care, they are more outgoing and confident.”
The Dr Vass Hearing Clinic, Suite 14, John James Medical Centre, 175 Strickland Crescent, Deakin. Visit drvasshearing.com.au or call 6282 2717.