Having support from a significant other (SO) is appreciated in various circumstances. Even when merely clothes shopping it's better with another person. Not only does it make the outing more social, but you also get confirmation from another person whether those shoes are actually attractive. Or more importantly, your shopping companion may need to talk you out of buying something that would ultimately waste away in the back of your closet. For both important and minor choices, having an SO involved in the decision process gives a sense of security.
Making decisions about health care
This security is particularly important when making decisions about health care. There are often options that may also involve risks. Discussing the possibilities with a trusted spouse, family member, or friend helps to weigh all the positives and negatives and come to a decision that best suits the person at hand. A study found that significant others play various roles in the decision-making process, and that they are consequently a key part of the entire patient journey (Ohlén et. al., 2006).
This type of decision making is relevant for hearing healthcare. The involvement of an SO is not a new concept, but it is one that should be emphasized. A correlation has been shown between successful hearing aid adoption and the attendance of an SO at the hearing care professional appointments (Singh and Launer, 2016). The SO should be part of the decision to pursue hearing aids, the adoption of the hearing aids, and subsequent aural rehabilitation. Therefore, the SO should be a primary conversation partner. They can play a role in helping a person acknowledge that they have a hearing loss and also assist in choosing the style and type of hearing aid. Like the clothing example, it makes the client feel secure to have confirmation from an SO that they're making the right choice.
It makes the client feel secure to have confirmation from a significant other that they're making the right choice.
Conversation is not a one-way street. The SO may be the person that has complained about the client not hearing well or at least brought the issue to their attention. But they should also be part of the solution. They need to be involved in the adoption of the hearing aids and the aural rehabilitation process to ensure that the client has support. As you know, hearing aids are not a quick fix, but require patience and time to get accustomed to hearing with them. Also, best-listening techniques that the client and the SO can use will help everyone achieve the most benefit from the hearing aids, both the client and all speaking partners.
Confidence in important decisions
Depending on the situation, a person may be responsible for paying a portion or the entire cost of a pair of hearing aids. For most people this is an expensive purchase and one that is not entered into lightly. Having the SO with them for key decisions and knowing that they are committed to the entire process will give the client more confidence. A lack of self-confidence was found as a key factor in the poor uptake of hearing aids, but that people who could rely on an SO to be supportive were more likely to indicate higher levels of self-efficacy (Meyer et. al., 2014).
Having an SO by our side is good for social times, for stressful times, and definitely for important decisions. All of us can relate to the increased confidence and security that a trusted companion gives in most situations. Therefore, encourage clients to bring an SO with them to the very first appointment. They can help absorb all the new information about hearing loss and available options along with the client. This way, it's not a journey that the client takes alone but one in which they're accompanied. After all, who likes to go on trips by themselves? And at the end of this road all parties can share in the success and experience the benefits of improved hearing.
Therefore, encourage clients to bring an SO with them to the very first appointment.
Meyer, C., Hickson, L., & Fletcher, A. (2014). Identifying the barriers
and facilitators to optimal hearing aid self-efficacy. International Journal of Audiology, 53:sup1, S28-S37. DOI: 10.3109/14992027.2013.832420.
Ohlén, J., Balneaves, L.G., Bottorff, J.L., and Brazier, A. S. A. (2006). The influence of significant others in complementary and alternative medicine decisions by cancer patients. Soc Sci Med, 63(6), 1625-1636. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.050.
Singh, G. and Launer, L. (2016). Social context and hearing aid adoption. Trends in Hearing, 20, 1-10. DOI: 10.1177/2331216516673833.