creating a new social norm for hearing care
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What is Audira?

Audira is a web-based think tank dedicated to shaping the future of hearing care in a way that creates a society in which the majority:

  • Respect their hearing (in much the same way they do their eyes and teeth)
  • Do all they can to keep their hearing working at its best throughout life
  • Mindful of the role their hearing plays in their own lives and in wider society
  • Confident that society will demonstrate active understanding should a residual reduction in hearing range put them at a disadvantage.

Audira takes the form of a non-partisan "collective intelligence", harnessing the power of the web to bring together individuals and organisations from different backgrounds where they can present ideas and discuss them freely and openly with the shared objective of changing society's attitudes towards hearing care.

All content is transparent, and released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure the greatest scope for content to be used to foster the aims of Audira.

Participation is open to anyone with an interest in hearing care and is willing to adhere to the spirit of Audira. For more information, please see Participate.

What Audira is not

  • Audira is not a professional body.
  • It is not interested in setting professional standards or recommending codes and scopes of practice.
  • It is not commercial.
  • It is not linked to any single hearing care provider or manufacturer.

Instead Audira is an open forum interested in looking at the "bigger picture" of hearing care – how systems, individuals and organisations interact with one another and what the effect is.

As a non-partisan, non-profit "collective intelligence" it endorses no one view and all ideas and arguments presented rise and fall by their own merit, providing they are conveyed within spirit of Audira The more diverse the participants, the truer a picture can be gained that takes into consideration the widest range of views and opinions.

How did Audira begin?

Audira was founded in 2010 by Curtis Alcock, a hearing care professional in the United Kingdom, as a vehicle for bringing together like minded individuals and organisations who all had the same goal: to instigate change in society's relationship to hearing care, rather than either assuming that change could not happen or that things would change by themselves "in their own good time".

Many of the issues faced by hearing care in his own country and all over the world were similar, yet the tendency has been for those involved in hearing care to engage in looking for things to compete with one another over at the expense of the common goal: to see hearing care become the norm in society rather than the exception.

"By all means we should be competing with each other on our differentiators, but not on those goals we share. When we compete on those, we dilute our message to society, limit our influence and confuse the consumer. And confusion leads to inaction."

By working together "with a unified purpose and unified message" hearing care increases its influence on society through a united voice.

What does Audira mean?

Audira means "s/he will hear".

The word is taken from Interlingua, a language specially developed to combine a simple, mostly regular grammar with a vocabulary common to the widest possible range of languages. It seemed apt to use this as it reflects the spirit of Audira, bringing together the widest range of people and giving them the means to work together towards a common goal.

In the previous articles we looked at how beliefs and perceptions about hearing difficulties are curently based on outdated ideas and misconceptions. These in turn affect the atttitudes of individuals and society, which delay or prevent people seeking timely treatment for a reduction in hearing.

The resulting delay, whether through "stubborness" (refusing to do anything because they see it as someone else's problem) or "ignorance" (not recognising the problem), perpetuates a vicious cycle that reinforces these old-fashioned myths.

In order to modernise attitudes to hearing care, we need to break that vicious cycle by redefining those underlying beliefs. This article describes what those beliefs should be and how we go about redefining them.

In The Old Fashioned Myths of Hearing Problems we identified the three main misconceptions held by the general public in regard to hearing problems. These pre-conceived ideas combine to have a direct and indirect effect on attitudes towards hearing care that feed into a vicious cycle that perpetuate those myths.

Because of these currently held myths, people mistakenly see two distinct 'camps':

  • You either: have perfect hearing
  • Or: You're “old, deaf and stupid”

Consequently you're considered to be either in one camp or the other; there's no middle ground. For most people, they just don't see there being any in between – partly through ignorance, and partly because there is no vocabularly available to adequately define the territory in between.

The general public often have preconceived ideas when it comes to thinking about hearing problems, which affect their attitudes towards individuals with reduced hearing and also in seeking timely treatment themselves. These preconceptions are often based on outdated myths and are widely held.

The three main myths regarding hearing difficulties can be summed up as follows:

  • Reduced hearing = Reduced intelligence.
  • Reduced hearing = Getting old.
  • Reduced hearing = Going Deaf.

We will take each of these myths in turn and explore how they have arisen before dispelling them and looking at ways to ensure they don't persist into the future.

Our attitudes to hearing care have five key drivers:

  • KNOWLEDGE – Our current knowledge about hearing.
  • LANGUAGE – The language we use to describe matters relating to hearing.
  • EFFECT – The effect that a reduction in hearing has.
  • ABILITY TO TREAT – Our current ability to treat a reduction in hearing.
  • RESPECT – How much respect we have for our sense of hearing.

As an aid memorisation, these five drivers spell out the acronym KLEAR. These five drivers are often interdependent, as shown in Figure 1 below.

drivers_relations_sml

For example, our current ability to treat reduced hearing has a direct impact on the effect that reduced hearing has on ourselves and on others. Likewise, the language we use to describe hearing difficulties will contribute to the overall effect that reduced hearing has on someone, sometimes even preventing an individual from seeking available treatment.

If we want to make hearing care relevant to the majority of people living in the UK and reduce the delay in seeking treatment, hearing care needs to move away from simply treating a reduction in hearing (primarily through the fitting of hearing aids), and move towards a more general and holistic approach.

Hearing Care needs to be perceived as being to hearing what Eye Care is to seeing and Dental Care is to teeth.

This model also helps us to understand one of the main reasons why some people see hearing aids negatively rather than associating them with the positive benefits the treatment brings.

If a treatment is completely effective (E) then there will be no remainder (R) of untreated hearing loss. If the treatment is completely effective, and the treatment does not introduce any unwanted side-effects (S), the treatment will be “invisible” for all intents and purposes.

In other words, the treatment will be synonymous with normal hearing.

Our ability to effectively treat a hearing loss has a direct bearing on society's attitudes towards hearing care and whether or not someone is prepared to treat their reduced hearing.

This is illustrated in the following diagram:

The terminology (words and phrases) we use in referring to hearing-related matters comes with its own pre-loaded associations and assumptions that are invoked every time we use them. Words can often bring to mind a flood of associations and memories, even belief systems and strong emotions.

So it's important to understand what impact we are having on someone's thoughts and feelings when we use these words. Are they helping or hindering the modernisation of attitudes to hearing care?

Hearing is so tightly integrated into our daily experience that it's very easy to take it for granted, simply because it's so hard to imagine what life would be like without such a rich and constant stimulation; we can't simply close our ears, as we can our eyes, to experience temporary deafness and find out what we'd be missing. And even if that were possible, many of the effects of auditory deprivation are long-term and therefore harder to measure objectively.

Before we can successfully modernise attitudes to hearing care, we must remind ourselves of how important our own sense of hearing is to us. Only then can we appreciate it enough to give it the respect it deserves and inspire others to look after it properly throughout life.

This needs to be done through public awareness, education and example.

Next: Definition of Reduced Hearing

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