A Refreshing Change of Pace: Designing Innovative Provider and Patient Education in a Digital Space

An Interview with Dawn Heiman, Au.D.
AP: Dr. Heiman, thank you for taking time to talk to Audiology Practices about the importance of targeted training for patients and caregivers. Please tell us a little about yourself.

DH: I consider myself to be a typical audiologist. I have been practicing for 21 years and have worked in most audiology settings during that time. I currently own and work in a private practice in Illinois. Most of my day involves working with patients who wear hearing aids.

AP: To provide some background for readers, can you talk a little bit about your interest in and foray into digital marketing and how you expanded that personal interest in a way to help others?

DH: Absolutely. In short, it all started because I became frustrated with the marketing options available to audiologists. I began researching alternatives and found myself diving headfirst into the digital marketing world and taking digital marketing courses to drive more patients to my office.

While taking course after course on how this new digital marketing industry works and seeing it from a perspective outside the audiology profession and hearing care industry, I gained a lot of knowledge that I felt compelled to share with my fellow audiologists. I started applying the techniques that I learned and then, people would reach out to me and want to schedule a time for me to teach them what I know. And then, because I am a sharer, I started doing free YouTube videos to teach other audiologists. I discovered that by creating a video, that one instruction could be watched by multiple people and they all received the same level of instruction consistently--and I didn’t have to schedule a time out of my day to teach each one individually.

AP: What was the impetus that led you to go from putting together YouTube videos to share your knowledge with audiologists to developing full-blown training courses for providers and patients?

DH: As I was taking courses that intrigued me, it occurred to me that I could move beyond making individual videos, to actually creating my own courses, with purposeful content and a collection of videos that could serve a higher purpose.

At the same time, I had been feeling a tug on my heart and an internal conflict for years, as it relates to patients who were struggling to put on their old and new hearing devices. They sometimes forget which ear, or what direction to put the hearing aids on, or they may forget to put their hearing aids into the charger each night. I feel ashamed to have said, “It will be fine,” or “Someone will know how to help you,” when patients verbalized that “[they] just don’t think [they] can do it.” A small part of me inside would crumble every time this happened, as I wasn’t at all sure that it would be fine. I just wanted to go home with them and help them.

So, as audiology reimbursements and average sales prices of hearing aids were dropping, I was feeling like I needed to add more time to each appointment to teach patients everything they need to know in order to master their hearing aids and be successful. This is a huge conflict and dilemma in most clinics!

Finally, about a year ago, as I was washing dishes and listening to a digital marketing course, an idea popped into my head: Why don’t I create a course that will teach the staff at senior communities to help my frail senior patients?!? I got so excited that I yelled to my family, with my hands sopping wet from the dishwater, “Mommy knows what she’s going to do to change the world!”

Right then and there, with my mind racing, I dried my hands, tore off a huge sheet of paper from my 5-year-old son’s painting easel, taped it to the dining room wall, and began sketching out ideas. Those ideas, conceptualized that day turned into the Hearing Aide Certification program to help train nurses and caregivers to help patients with their hearing aids, the Hearing Wellness Journey, an online aural rehabilitation program, and the EntreAudiology Academy, a resource built upon my previous work to help audiologists.

The EntreAudiology Academy was the first to fruition. I drew out what it would look like if I took what I was teaching through YouTube videos and expanded it to a resource page, designed to help audiologists who run a practice. I put together the collection of audiology practice building videos and launched the EntreAudiology Academy in August 2019.

Since that time, I have slowly but surely been writing the content, and creating the videos for the Hearing Aide Certification program and the Hearing Wellness Journey program, simultaneously during evenings and weekends. As fate would have it, I finished the last video on Saturday, March 14, 2020, just as the nation, Illinois, and my practice, were shut down due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. If there was a silver lining, it is that I suddenly found myself with the two months I needed to effectively turn the videos and content into two website courses. Talk about opportunities!

AP: Congratulations on the accomplishment! Can you talk a bit more about the Hearing Aide Certification and how you hope it will impact your community?

DH: The Hearing Aide Certification training program has two primary objectives. First and foremost, I’m hoping to educate nurses, nurse’s aides, and home caregivers about why hearing is important. Secondly, I want to empower them with the skills they need to support our elderly patients who rely on them daily in the skilled and assisted living communities, as well as those they serve through a home health agency.

Now, more than ever, long-term care, assisted living, and home care senior communities need the Hearing Aide Certification because residents are not allowed to freely leave the communities and in many cases, audiologists are not being allowed to go inside to care for their patients.

AP: What are your overarching goals for these projects in the future?

DH: My three “Why” circles are:
  • I can help people improve their hearing because I’m an audiologist.
  • I am good at making videos and websites.
  • I am constantly concerned about who leaves my office and wonder if they have the knowledge and support they needs once they return home.
My big goal is to make a remarkable change in the senior living world, one person at a time. I want to help change the overall mental health and morale of those living in senior communities because they can hear better, socialize more, and engage in life at their best.

I created the Hearing Aide Certification program to help ensure that seniors who go home to their senior community have the support that they need, and I created the Hearing Wellness Journey for patients who would like reinforcement and reminders about what I taught them in the office, and also listening exercises to help retrain their brain.

While each course is geared for different audiences, both courses, are designed to demonstrate the importance of hearing, hearing aid care and use, strategies for success, and to encourage and challenge patients, so they can be as successful as possible.

AP: Is there one important takeaway that you have learned through your work on these projects?

DH: I have learned that we, as humans, do not like change--but that if we embrace change and try something new, we often also find a new way of thinking that brings us new opportunities for joy in life. This is true for the person who finally goes to the audiologist after years of denying themselves hearing help. And it is just as true for this audiologist who, after a time of complacence and frustration with the status quo, decided to do something “disruptive”. Being open to learning new things can be a life changer.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Heiman. AP readers can find more information about all of these programs at www.entreaudiology.net.    
Dr. Dawn Heiman earned her Au.D. from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, School of Audiology. She obtained Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her Master of Science degree in Audiology from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Heiman is the owner and founder of Advanced Audiology Consultants, a private practice in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.