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Yvonne Doyle, winner of Irish Audiologist of the Year talks to Waterford Today

Waterford Today were delighted to hear that local audiologist, Yvonne Doyle from Hidden Hearing was awarded ‘Irish Audiologist of the Year’ and with it the distinction of being the first Irish woman to be awarded the title. Waterford Today spoke to Yvonne last week to learn more about the woman herself, and also to Robin who nominated Yvonne and says she has changed his daily life.

Congratulations Yvonne, how do you feel about winning this award and do you believe it will make a difference to the practice?

It came as a lovely surprise and I felt very privileged, if a little overwhelmed, to be awarded the Irish Audiologist of the Year. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out I was the first Irish woman to be awarded the title!

I take the responsibilities of my job very seriously and I am very grateful to get the recognition for the effort I put into my work every day. When I read Robin’s nomination, I realised just how much time, effort and thought he had put into his words and nomination and it really brought home the importance of what I do every day and the difference our work as Audiologists can impact on a client’s life.

The award will give new clients a degree of confidence that they are meeting a professional who does her job well. To see a wall certificate for the Audiologist of the Year hanging alongside academic qualifications reassures the individual that they are in safe hands. Since moving to the Waterford branch two years ago, I have worked to have the branch considered as a Centre of Excellence in the region and for it to be thought of as the primary destination when deciding on a Hearing Care Provider. We have a great team in Waterford and in truth, the customers’ experience and satisfaction starts as soon as they walk in the door so the award is a reflection on the professionalism and work ethic by everyone in the Waterford branch.

Tell us a bit about your background, how long have you been an audiologist and did you always want to be one?

My interest in Audiology came through personal experience. Both my father and grandmother had hearing loss, so I experienced first-hand the effect hearing loss had, both for them but also for the family living with someone who is hard of hearing. There can be many frustrations for everyone concerned. I frequently hear family members telling me they are accused of either whispering or shouting which can lead to a lot of unnecessary tensions! My grandmother very reluctantly wore the large older style analogue hearing aids which were not very successful! As technology developed, we as a family could see the changes in the Industry, both in terms of size and styles available but also the improvement in the sound which resulted in much improved communication and more satisfaction. When you have a family member withdrawing from family/social events and not actively partaking in conversations it can fundamentally change the way that person interacts and it can be heart breaking to witness that. So, to work in a profession where you can help show the hard of hearing that there are alternatives to that quieter world, is very rewarding.

You have implemented several patient care initiatives at the Arundel Square branch of Hidden Hearing, can you explain them to me?

When an individual is prescribed hearing aids it is the start of an ongoing relationship with their audiologist. Our aftercare initiative is one which is very much client centered with ongoing care. We like to see the person once or twice a year to ensure they are getting on well with the hearing aids and it is also important to monitor any changes to their hearing.

The Wellness Programme has been an initiative set up to promote hearing health care in the wider community, whereby we are encouraging people to have a free baseline hearing check. It has been very successfully received, with clients regularly nominating friends or family whom they feel would benefit from this.

We have also run some coffee mornings in the branch to encourage people to come in for a chat to let them know what we do. It can be a vunerable time for people so we strive to promote a branch where the atmosphere is one of understanding and encouragement.

As part of generating awareness about hearing healthcare, I have also been a guest speaker at many of the Waterford city and county Active Retirement groups.

As Irish research has shown, up to 75% of people with hearing difficulty go untreated, what advice have you got for people who feel they are suffering hearing loss?

The first thing to say is if someone is worried about their hearing, they should either, call and make an appointment to see an audiologist. Ignoring Hearing Loss will not unfortunately make it go away! In fact as we all recognise it only gets worse the longer it is left untreated. Get the information and find out the best options available to you. It is so important to seek professional advice and treatment, as untreated hearing loss has wider health implications. There may well be an underlying medical issue which needs to be addressed. A thorough assessment is conducted with a family member present and is completely non invasive. It is a service Hidden Hearing provide for free and when you are equipped with all the information you are in a position to make an informed decision.

What are the most common causes of hearing loss as we get older?

Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss is an unfortunate but very real part of the ageing process. In addition, hearing loss can be accelerated by exposure to loud noise for any prolonged period of time. Certain illnesses such as Meniere’s Disease or Meningitis can impact on our hearing, as can a trauma to the ear. One of the unfortunate side effects of chemotherapy treatments can be a hearing loss and certain medications can be ototoxic to hearing. There can also be congenital hearing defects or hereditary conditions affecting hearing. When diagnosing a hearing loss, a full case history is conducted to fully evaluate each case.

Do you believe that people are reluctant to admit to hearing loss?

I believe this is changing as people are more concerned with the quality of their hearing and are less concerned about wearing hearing aids. However, there is still an element of denial for a lot of people and that is what we are trying to help overcome. To help people hear better and show them there are options available is what we are about. The first step is always getting an assessment done and getting the information.

What are the usual day-to-day effects of hearing loss?

Hearing Loss can affect people in very different ways and each case is investigated on its own merit. For some it can inhibit learning during educational years, for others it can hold them back in their work life or make attending meetings where important information is conveyed, an unwanted stress. A simple act of watching television loses its’ enjoyment. Socially it can be very detrimental to a persons’ life. I regularly hear clients saying their mother, father or spouse has stopped partaking in social events due to a hearing loss and a fear of mishearing and/or having to ask people to repeat what they said. Each of these situations can be so mentally exhausting for the individual suffering with hearing loss. There are times when a hearing loss can have more worrying implications. E.g. I recently had a new mother in for an assessment who only acknowledged her hearing loss when her sister asked her how long she was going to let her baby cry for…..she hadn’t heard her baby crying. The son of one of my clients was very concerned one day when he was unable to get a response from his mother. His mother was sitting indoors quite well but had not heard the phone ringing.

Often there are negative perceptions about wearing a hearing aid as people remember the old-style hearing aids – how are those offered by Hidden Hearing different?

I remember that style of hearing aid myself as it was what my grandmother wore! Some individuals still have the perception that this style is still prescribed today. The reality couldn’t be further from that. What a lot of people forget is that there are so many bluetooth connections and ear phones worn on and in the ear purely for convenience. A hearing aid looks no different from these devices. At Hidden Hearing, the hearing aids we prescribe are so small and discreet they are barely visible and some cannot be seen at all.

Besides providing hearing aids, what other services does Hidden Hearing provide in Arundel Square?

We provide a very comprehensive service at the branch in Arundel Square. In addition to conducting hearing assessments and prescribing hearing aids, I regularly get referrals from local GP’s to do a report for someone who may require an ENT referral and consultation. Certain factories require potential staff to provide an Audiometric test prior to securing employment and we also offer this service completely free of charge. For some, their hearing difficulties can be related to a build-up of wax and we have a specialist wax removal practitioner- Mr Graham Sutton, who does regular clinics with us in Arundel Square for wax removal.

Robin, can you explain your hearing loss to me?

I can’t clearly remember its origins; my father told me it started with a fall from a high chair as a baby. I think some of it may be hereditary. I began wearing aids at around the 1970’s and wore one aid only. By 1990, after a left radical mastoidectomy, I was told my left ear was defunct. I struggled with one aid until moving to Waterford, assuming a total loss in the left ear and 50% loss in the right.

How did your hearing loss affect you on a day-to-day basis?

Quite badly. I was disgruntled. Conversations in groups and over talking left me isolated. I was ashamed to be told I was shouting. I argued what was the point in going out when I ended up sitting alone because I was excluded from events around me. It was an ordeal. My wife almost had to act as my interpreter at times. That’s not to say I was a recluse, but I did miss out on a lot. My loss cost me an interview to be a pilot in 1963/4: I impressed a medical assessor with my athleticism until she stood me in a diagonally opposite corner and whispered to me from the opposite corner with her back to me. I missed one key word; “marmalade” and failed the test. Career changing!

Why did you nominate Yvonne?

I’ve met a number of audiologists over the years. Yvonne is the first to take the time to thoroughly re-assess my hearing history and to persist with the details in fitting and adjusting two new aids until I felt that they were exactly right. Yvonne made me feel very comfortable, less self-conscious or embarrassed during the consultation. That kind of non-judge mentalism and empathy is, I believe, rare. She also fully conquered my hearing loss. Yvonne Doyle has literally changed my daily experience!

What would you say to people who are afraid to admit to hearing loss because they don’t want to wear hearing aids because they remember the old style aids that could be seen? How are the Hidden Hearing aids different?

I’d tell them I recognise their fears, remember all about the old aids. Today’s hearing aids are so discreet and unnoticeable; the technology is vastly different and new aids are very effective. They can now compensate for loss at high and low frequency, matching your needs. My Hidden Hearing aids preference is for “in the ear” aids which don’t clash with specs, don’t need long hair cover and don’t dislodge. Check me out…..I’m wearing them now!!!

What difference has going to Hidden Hearing and meeting Yvonne made to your life?

I think only a sufferer would appreciate the difference! I can hear myself and avoid the embarrassment of shouting. I hear all the clatter of ordinary life; I hear kitchen noises, rushing water, television, music, birdsong outside. I hear my cat purring or meowing. I can tell which direction sound is coming from. (That’s new). As I said in my nomination, in an attempt to summaries what it all means to me, I am back in the moment. I have a better awareness of my surroundings. I am restored to a less frustrating and more satisfactory life. I feel so much better in myself. I used to avoid my hearing aids but now I seek them out and wear them to enjoy the difference!

To talk to Yvonne about your hearing contact Hidden Hearing contact 053 912 3676 click here Don’t suffer in silence, talk to the professionals at Hidden Hearing and see what a difference they can make to your life and the lives of your loved ones.

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