The systems that deliver healthcare in the United States are complex and often involve patients interacting with a variety of healthcare specialties. The very nature of health problems calls for comprehensive healthcare that comprises many professionals. Among the specialists are the hearing healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat communication disorders and balance problems. These specialists can also serve as part of a comprehensive healthcare team.
A hearing healthcare professional diagnosis hearing problems and fits hearing aids. However, they do much more than that. A professional can improve communication, quality of life, professional life, and reduce stress and anxiety. Because of professional collaboration, a hearing healthcare professional can also help to get medical help for people. The contributions that hearing healthcare professionals make to health care teams are significant. Of course, these professionals address hearing and balance disorders, but they also are involved with chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression, cognitive decline, dizziness and falling, and ototoxicity.
According to estimations, more than 90 percent of the U.S. annual health care spending is for people with chronic physical and mental health conditions which require ongoing medical attention and limit activities of daily living (ADLs). Communication disorders, which include hearing, speech, and language disorders, have a tremendous impact on ADLs, and this affects the quality of health care. These communication disorders can prolong the administration of adequate medical care while leading to poor treatment adherence due to an inability to understand instructions. In 2018, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) audiology council took part in a survey to improve population health through professional collaboration.
Members of ASHA’s Advisory Councils took part in the surveys and gave responses to a 20-question online review on interprofessional collaboration. The questionnaire asked the participants about any professional cooperation within the last 18 months. Further information regarding the interprofessional activity, partnerships, and interpersonal education, as well as descriptions of these activities, was part of the survey when the collaboration was taking place.
Forty-three professionals confirmed that they engaged in interprofessional activity within the last 18 months. The primary employer for the respondents was college/university closely followed by health care facilities. The hearing healthcare professionals indicated that they spent more time in interprofessional practice than interprofessional education. Very few reported engagements in interprofessional research. The hearing professionals frequently work with ENT doctors, nurses, social workers, and SLPs as well as other specialists such as athletic trainers, industrial hygienists, and surgeons. The core competency domains of values and ethics, roles and responsibilities, interprofessional communication, and teams and teamwork appear on the survey for the practitioners to indicate where their interprofessional engagement takes place. Of the four, interprofessional activities within roles and responsibilities ranked at the top with values and ethics behind it.
Hearing healthcare professionals contribute to overall health. However, the results are indicating that these practitioners need to be involved in more interprofessional research to demonstrate their value and increase public awareness of the impact communication disorders has on general health.