Final Word | March 2017 Hearing Review

A few weeks ago, I heard a radio interview with American film director Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog). I was struck by his comment that, in spite of his accomplishments, he considers himself an amateur. Our contemporary synonyms for amateur include unpaid, or incompetent, inept, unskillful, inexpert, clumsy, or bumbling. Jarmusch points us instead to the Latin root of the word “amare” meaning to love. He loves what he does.

That struck me with the thought that so many of us love what we do as audiologists and hearing care professionals. We love to tell stories about our patients and how they may have appreciated even the simplest of things that we have done for them.

I love the sense of accomplishment when I am done with fitting and verifying hearing aids on an initial fit. It is literally uplifting fun for me to do my job. When others share their stories about their approach to a problem that yielded a successful outcome, I make note of it if the approach was innovative and get vicarious enjoyment from their success. When someone from any profession tells me about their work and grumbles “It’s a job,” I feel disappointed and sorry for them.

I’ve been in many situations where external rewards were hard to come by. In those situations, I would always recall my father’s advice that “A job well done is the best reward.” As an adolescent performing chores that I didn’t particularly want to do, I had trouble understanding that. Once I warmed up to the concept, I was rewarded time and time again with a sense of accomplishment when a task was expertly executed and completed.

In our important work, we have many opportunities to achieve those rewards. Sharing the joy that a patient appreciates when they first experience the clarity that a remote microphone brings to a difficult listening situation; seeing the relief on a patient’s face when a simple vent adjustment eliminates unpleasant occlusion; watching a smile appear when a programming adjustment brings welcomed additional audibility and clarity to what they hear are good examples of those great rewards.

Now that hearing aids are smaller and better designed than those from decades ago, we can be proud of the way they look, and how well they perform. In the past decade, I’ve enjoyed the new opportunities for achieving a good cosmetic result, because standard hearing aids come in more colors than beige and brown, and I have enjoyed finally being able to provide products small enough that they can satisfy the cosmetic concerns of more patients.

Do you love what you do? If you have ever seen a stranger in public with their earmold hanging out, and could barely overcome the urge to reach out and fix it, you love your work. If you listen to complaints about the performance or comfort of a fitting, and enjoy approaching the situation as you would a challenging puzzle, you love your work. If you look at the schedule for the day, and recognize familiar names with a sense of pleasant expectation, you love your work… OK, there are some names that may evoke something other than pleasant expectation, but we take them all and welcome the challenges if we love our work.

I hear and read about some in our profession who fit primarily receiver-in-canal (RIC) products. In their defense, I will admit that many of the problems that individuals with difficulty hearing can be addressed with RIC aids. I will offer, however, that potentially greater rewards for the patient and clinician alike are in store for those who consider the full array of form-factor options that are available to us today. A quick fitting with silicone domes may be easy, but may send an erroneous message that there isn’t much more to hearing aid selection than picking out a set of headphones from an airport kiosk. Custom earmolds or custom products can solve comfort, convenience, performance, and cosmetic issues that off-the-shelf devices cannot.

The Final Word? We don’t have a job; we are engaged in the pursuit of happiness for our patients, as well as ourselves. Every patient we see has needs, and meeting those needs is rewarding. The word “passion” can be overused in motivational discussions, but it properly describes the way that most of us feel about what we do. Go ahead and say it!

Dennis Van Vliet, AuD
Dennis Van Vliet, AuD
, has been a prominent clinician, columnist, educator, and leader in the hearing healthcare field for over 40 years, and his professional experience includes working as an educational audiologist, a private-practice owner, and VP of audiology for a large dispensing network. He currently serves as the senior director of professional relations for Starkey Hearing Technologies, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Correspondence can be addressed to HR or: Dennis_VanVliet

Original citation for this article: Van Vliet D. Loving what you do: The joy of not having to grumble ‘It’s a Job.’ Hearing Review. 2017;24(3):50.