October 2015

Do You Miss Parts of Conversations?

Author: REBECCA EDWARDS | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

If you have ever had a health challenge, you have probably experienced the frustration of feeling more like a diagnosis than a person. Many health care professionals, while educated and or talented, fail to truly connect with their patients, and often times we leave their office with either unanswered questions or we lack the clarity to know what questions we should be asking in the first place and are therefore uninformed about all of our options. On the flip side, many physicians feel pressure to give assembly line like care. In a recent USA Today article, Roni Caryn Rabi wrote, “Physicians say they feel the time crunch as never before as doctors rush through appointments as if on roller skates to see more patients and perform more procedures to make up for flat or declining reimbursements.”

In short, we have a real issue with healthcare these days.

But Dr. Michael Szynski, or Dr. Mike as his patients call him, of Hilton Head Hearing wants to make things right. He believes the patient-doctor relationship is not purely medical—it is also based on friendship. “Ten minutes just isn’t enough time. I budget an hour for the first appointment. I don’t just want to fit a person with a hearing aid. I want to get to know that person,” said Dr. Mike, who then laughed and joked, “But the follow-ups are much quicker, I promise. I know people have places to be.”

When asked why he became an audiologist, Dr. Mike gave his signature, easygoing smile and in a happy-go-lucky manner responded, “Divine intervention I guess. I was going to be a deaf education teacher, and as I finished my bachelor’s degree, I took an acoustic class. I did so well in that class that I received a full ride to audiology school.”

Dr. Mike also attributes divine intervention to meeting, and as he puts it “serving” his patients, saying with all sincerity, “My patients have been a true blessing.” In his 28 years as a doctor, Dr. Mike has helped approximately 60,000 hearing impaired individuals, globally. Yep, you read that right. Sixty-thousand people across the world. In addition to serving his local community, Dr. Mike often takes mission trips to countries like China to help people hear for the first time. “When you see someone hear for the first time, it’s just such a powerful moment,” began Dr. Mike. “First, they have this look of shock and they say, ‘I can hear you!’ And then they usually tear up, because for most people they are thinking, ‘This burden has been taken off my shoulders.’ This is because hearing loss creates a sense of separation, and restored hearing gives them a sense of belonging.”

Listening to Dr. Mike talk about his patients, you cannot help but be struck with how passionate he is about his profession and his ability to help others. “When I hear someone is suffering, I want to make it right,” he said. Dr. Mike strives to get an accurate snapshot of each of his patients by asking them detailed questions about themselves, their lifestyle and their goals. “I want to help my patients take ownership of their problem, empower them and advocate for them so that they can truly hear better.”

Greenville Wright, who is a patient of Dr. Mike’s spoke about his experience. “My meeting with Dr. Mike changed my life. He was both amazed and concerned that I wasn’t able to communicate with my wife and children effectively and even hold business meetings in order to be effective at my job,” Wright said. “He had mentioned to me that he has never seen anyone with hearing as bad as mine that had gone uncorrected for so long. He took great concern for my welfare and proceeded to put me through a comprehensive battery of tests that allowed him to diagnose the specific issues related to my hearing loss and provide the correct solution.”

Wright also addressed the patient-physician dynamic. “There is no way to ensure you get the treatment you require unless you have a relationship with your physician built on trust. Dr. Mike makes it easy to foster a highly collaborative relationship. I have seen Dr. Mike several times since my initial visit and his outreach continues to be like the first day we met.”

If you or someone you know is considering getting fitted for a hearing aid, Dr. Mike recommends the following tips:

Don’t procrastinate. “There is a lot of evidence suggesting that hearing loss that goes untreated has long term ramifications because the brain de-emphasizes that area and language processing is most affected. Therefore, the longer you wait, the longer it takes to adapt to the aid.”
Don’t buy proprietary aids. “People need to make sure that when they buy an aid, that anyone can program it. Proprietary aids cause exclusivity and lock in patients, which can cause a problem down the road for many reasons.”

Communicate well with your audiologist. “Not everyone should buy the most expensive hearing aid. I make sure to understand my patients’ lifestyles, their family members and pitch ranges (because women tend to have higher pitches), their activity level, and their social life (like whether they like to go to restaurants). And then I match them with the appropriate aid. Someone who’s single, prefers to stay home and read books doesn’t need as a sophisticated aid as someone who’s married, plays golf and socializes a lot.”
Set realistic expectations. “Your hearing will never be back to 100 percent, so have a frank conversation with your audiologist, understand the severity of your hearing loss and set an attainable goal. I always tell my patients my goal is to give the best possible results.”

Don’t be fooled by gimmicks and advertising. “For example, someone might see an ad in the paper for a $500 aid, but if they read the fine print, it says it’s only for mild hearing loss and this aid probably will not help them at all.” 
Hilton Head Hearing is located at 23 Main Street on Hilton Head and Sheridan Park (the corner of Simmonsville Rd and 278) in Bluffton. For more information, visit hiltonheadhearing.com, call (843) 681-6070 or email Dr. Mike at hhhearing@hotmail.com.

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