Nicole Klutz

Inside FCC: Provide Healthcare That Goes Beyond Hearing Loss

By Nicole Klutz, Au.D., Phonak Audiology Manager

Cognition and hearing loss.

These two topics have been in the spotlight over the past year with ongoing research continuing to point to a potential connection or causal relationship between them. Johns Hopkins has completed numerous studies that have found hearing loss to be associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adultsand seniors with hearing loss more likely to develop dementia over time as compared to their peers who retain their hearing2.

While studies are still being completed and data is being crunched, there is no doubt that there is a relationship that is critical to understand between hearing loss and its impacts on cognitive function.

While studies are still being completed and data is being crunched, there is no doubt that there is a relationship that is critical to understand between hearing loss and its impacts on cognitive function.

So how are we supposed to talk about this with our patients? How do we know if someone’s cognitive function is compromised? How do we ask the right questions — where do you start? Through the adoption of Family Centered Care (FCC) in an audiology practice, you have the opportunity to test a patient’s capability and functioning.

Your Valuable Asset Outside the Office

The foundation of FCC is built upon the principle of involving the family member in the evaluation, discussion of interventions and solutions, and relying upon them to support the implementation and adherence to the rehabilitation process when the patient is not in your office.

Family members also provide an added benefit to the hearing care professional during the evaluation process by being able to provide additional support and information for the patient who may be forgetful or cannot fully describe the difficulty they are experiencing. Family members serve as a valuable asset outside of your office, but they’re perhaps an even more integral part of the conversation when seeking to understand what has brought their loved one into our offices.

Looking at the Bigger Picture

Seeking to understand the hearing health of our patients is where we start as hearing care professionals. But what if we think of more than just their hearing health and look at the bigger picture of overall wellness. What about their cognitive function and capabilities? How about their memory — can they recall the difficulties they have experienced?

Family members serve as a valuable asset outside of your office, but they’re perhaps an even more integral part of the conversation when seeking to understand what has brought their loved one into our offices.

Perhaps one of the most unique areas of opportunity for hearing care professional using FCC in their clinic is to incorporate quick screeners into the evaluation related to overall health, wellness and cognition. If a patient is seeing you in your office more often than their general physician, you may be their first chance to identify and refer for further medical inquiry or treatment.

Cognitive Screener

Let’s take cognition for example.

Cognitive screeners like the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCa)provide full, in-depth cognitive testing as well as shorter screeners like the trail making or clock drawing testmay provide insight into the cognitive function of your patient that then aligns with their reported difficulties.

As their hearing care professional, you then have the power to not only identify and include an efficient method of screening — but you also have the chance to refer for more thorough testing that may have been missed or not even uncovered prior.

The foundation of FCC and its implementation in your practice is not only a way to differentiate yourself as a HCP — but it is also a way to understand your patients to the fullest extent possible, allowing you to provide them with the best hearing healthcare taking into account their overall health and wellness.

Resources

Web access verified June 13, 2018.

  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_accelerates_brain_function_decline_in_older_adults
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_and_dementia_linked_in_study
  3. https://www.mocatest.org/splash/
  4. Lin, F. R., Ferrucci, L., Metter, E. J., An, Y., Zonderman, A. B., & Resnick, S. M. (2011). Hearing Loss and Cognition in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Neuropsychology25(6), 763–770. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0024238
Nicole Klutz

Nicole joined Phonak in 2013. Originally from the East Coast, she grew up in Maine and moved to the Midwest in 2009 to complete graduate schooling at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. An avid outdoors enthusiast, Nicole spends a majority of her free time in the water, woods or on the road traveling with her two dogs and husband. As a part of the audiology team at Phonak, Nicole enjoys spending time teaching and training on new products and their benefits as well as continuing to build upon the audiological foundation of Phonak.