A woman with hearing loss contemplates her audiologists’ recommendations for hearing aids; an older couple, both with hearing loss, discuss their communication strategies; two parents and their young daughter discuss her life with a cochlear implant: these videos are three among a rich library produced for hearing healthcare professionals by the Ida Institute, an international non-profit organization based in Denmark.

Companies addressing hearing loss would also learn from the videos. The 2017 Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, with its intent to create a new class of OTC hearing aids, has attracted entrepreneurs, consumer product giants, and pharmacy retailers into a space in which they need to understand the consumer-patient experience.

The videos are a useful resource for understanding patient needs and attitudes. One example is the video “I Don’t Like Gaudiness, I Don’t Like Loudness” which illustrates the subtleties of denial. The patient asserts that other people’s accents and their failure to clearly enunciate cause her difficulty hearing, rather than her own hearing loss.

To understand more about this rich video library, I sat down with Lise Lotte Bundesen, managing director of the Ida Institute. What follows is a summary of our conversation.

What motivated you to create the series?

Ethnography has always been part of our innovation processes. We were the first in the hearing care arena to use ethnographic videos to better understand the patient experience and the interaction between hearing care professionals and their patients. We also use these videos in our workshops and presentations for professionals to show what actually happens in appointments. It’s a little bit like holding up a mirror; even the most experienced, dedicated professionals are often surprised by what they see.

You mentioned that the videos are a form of ethnography. Can you elaborate?

The videos are produced by anthropologists who spend time in clinics observing the encounter between hearing care professionals and their patients. We’ve also interviewed patients in their home, alone or together with their communication partners. It’s a way of recording and documenting people’s experiences with hearing loss and how they perceive the care they receive.

How would you recommend that for-profit companies addressing hearing loss use the video series?

It’s very important to stress that the videos are made solely for educational purposes and cannot be used in a commercial context. This being said, there is a lot that for-profit companies can learn from the videos in terms of understanding of how hearing loss affects their clients and how to improve communication with them. This allows them ultimately to provide better care and leads to happier clients.

Can you give an example of a for-profit company using the videos?

We have recently established a partnership with Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care who have clinics across the UK. They use Ida’s ethnographic videos internally to train and educate their staff about hearing loss and sensitize them to the impact that hearing loss has on people’s lives. This has led to very positive results, notably in terms of staff motivation.

What do you envision as your next act in elucidating the experiences of people with hearing loss?

In addition to ethnographic videos, we offer tools, resources and online training that allow hearing care professionals to deliver person-centered hearing care. Right now we are working on developing a conversation guide that can help hearing care professionals explain hearing test results to patients in a person-centered manner. Stay tuned….