StromFitting by Personality

“I am not contained between my hat and my boots.”
—Henry David Thoreau

In this month’s HR, Robert Traynor, EdD, provides an overview of what promises to become a very productive area in hearing science: personality profiling. It has long been recognized that people with the same degree of hearing loss, and similar etiologies, audiograms, life histories, etc, can respond radically different relative to amplification strategies. One client may love a hearing aid while the other can’t stand it. Could the difference be as simple as personality?

A practical overview of personality profiling is offered by Traynor who describes how one might go about using some of the concepts which underlie the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and/or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS)—two of the most widely used instruments for personality profiling—when fitting hearing instruments. I have to admit that I’ve even been guilty of dismissing some aspects of this kind of profiling as “psycho-babble.” Okay, so I was wrong. When reading the article, you will see that there are obviously many useful implications for understanding (at least) the rudimentaries of this approach for counseling and fitting patients. It also makes for fun and intriguing reading. As one reads through the article, it’s difficult not to think about your own particular reactions when visiting a doctor, dentist, or similar health care professional, and how these professionals’ approaches, and your reactions to them, vary—for better or worse. Traynor identifies the general characteristics of each of the four major hearing-impaired patient personality types, then provides some guidelines on how these individuals might react when undergoing aural rehabilitation and hearing instrument fitting. He also points out that the interaction of the hearing care professional’s personality—or, in the worse case, clash of the patient/dispenser personalities—might lead to problems and how these clashes might be avoided.

Of course, tailoring a hearing instrument fitting for a person’s lifestyle isn’t really new. Most good, experienced dispensing professionals have developed a good “bedside manner” and an intuitive feel for this kind of social jujitsu. In fact, this may be at the heart of customer satisfaction. The hearing care field has a great need for fitting more patients, not audiograms. Increasingly, it’s becoming evident that patients and audiograms are two very different things. Traynor’s article suggests an emerging, more detailed, people-oriented approach to understanding the entire patient during the course of an aural rehabilitation program. And one can see this idea in other very useful tools, such as the Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI).

Additionally, excellent work in this area is continuing in universities, hearing science laboratories, and hearing aid manufacturing facilities across the world. From this work, it is conceivable that, in the future, a person’s lifestyle, life-stage, and personal preferences or proclivities will actually start making a difference in things like temporal sequencing, attack/release times, the presentation of spectral information, and other acoustic parameters.

The use of personality profiling and/or understanding the salient amplification needs of the patient is one of the “big next steps” in hearing instrument fitting. It is an extension of the epistomological picture of hearing care and health care, in general. As always, we look forward to your comments.

Karl Strom