Delivering The "News"

‚ÄčAudiologists are often the first professionals to deliver the diagnosis of hearing loss. Experienced audiologists know that families' reactions vary considerably and will be influenced by several factors. For example, when are they learning about the hearing loss? Is it during the Newborn Hearing Screen? Is this a later identification? Have the parents suspected that there was a problem? Is there a history of hearing loss in the family? Is the family a member of the Deaf culture? These factors and numerous others will impact the reaction of families to the diagnosis of hearing loss.

What are some practical strategies that would be helpful for professionals who have the responsibility of delivering the diagnosis?

  • Prepare in advance and know the background of the family (the family's story) before meeting with them. This will help you to anticipate the impact of the diagnosis.
  • Meet with families in a comfortable setting. A separate counseling room that is cozy and comfortable would be ideal. Families will have plenty of time in the clinical settings in the future. It is sometimes helpful to separate the memories of that day into a more neutral setting.
  • If possible, team with a professional counselor when delivering difficult news. Audiologists and families will benefit from the expertise and training of mental health professionals in these difficult situations.
  • Allow enough time to meet with families. Families and professionals should not feel rushed. Follow the families lead in determining how much time to spend together. Inform families that you will follow-up with a phone call in a few days.
  • Listen more and talk less. Be careful not to provide too much information. Answer their questions briefly and directly. Know that you may need to repeat the same information at a later time when they are emotionally ready to hear it and understand it.
  • Learn to be comfortable with your own feelings so that you can support the families that you are counseling. No particular reaction is right or wrong, feelings just are. Be prepared for a wide range of emotions to surface. Learn to be comfortable with silence rather than feeling a need to fill the void.
  • Be prepared for a variety of reactions from families and tailor your counseling accordingly. Professionals need to read people's body language and facial expressions. If a family has shut-down because of the shock of the diagnosis, be sensitive to that and reconvene your session at later date.

Offer referrals to other families who have children with hearing loss. Know that some families will be ready to interact with others and some will not. Be sensitive to either situation and ask again at a later date if needed. Summarize the session with a brief plan for the next step to be taken. Knowing what to expect next can be comforting to families who are new to dealing with children who have special needs.