An ear for the industry: How this Hearing Instrument Practitioner student is helping others through lived experience

By Elizabeth Douglas, Marketing and Communications

When it comes to the importance of perfecting hearing aids, Nicolette Barnes knows better than anyone. 

Nicolette – who has hearing loss – was at her own hearing aid appointment when she decided that she wanted to help others improve their hearing. She started looking into local programs and found the Diploma in Hearing Instrument Practitioner (HEAR) at Douglas. 

“It’s not just about helping you hear.

It’s about helping you feel able to live well.”

“As a hearing aid wearer, I can understand some of the issues clients experience with their hearing aids and the adaptation of learning to live with them. I understand the struggle from personal experience, not just textbook learning.”

Nicolette explains how crucial it is to make sure that clients are happy with their fitting and that they feel comfortable coming back for follow-up appointments if something doesn’t feel right. It can be exhausting trying to strain to hear the world around them. 

“I think it’s a bigger deal than a lot of practitioners realize. They’ll tell clients to try and get used to the hearing aids,” she says. “But it doesn’t work that way. That’s like putting in somebody in size zero pants when they’re size four and telling them to just accept it. They’re going to be uncomfortable all day, every day in those pants.” 

Not only will people be uncomfortable, but the motivation to do things they enjoy will diminish, Nicolette says. It isn’t always easy, but it is crucial to each client’s well-being. 

“As practitioners, we can give them all that enjoyment back simply by working with them to find a balance that will provide them with the most audibility and create a comfortable listening environment,” she says. “Because it’s not just about helping you hear. It’s about helping you be able to live well.” 

Feeling supported

As a student with hearing loss and entering this industry, Nicolette has felt supported every step of the way. 

“When we test hearing we wear a headset, but that could be an issue for people who wear hearing aids themselves,” she says. “My instructors have taken the time to show me different techniques for using the headset with my hearing aids.” 

Through the HEAR program, students take part in two practicum placements at local hearing centres. So far, Nicolette has completed one of her placements, where she was matched with a Costco clinic in Abbotsford. Not only did she learn about medical referrals, testing and fitting, but her mentor also had hearing loss. 

“The practitioner I was working with had hearing aids himself, and he told me that we actually have an advantage in the industry as hearing aid wearers because we understand the clients so much better.” 

Satisfaction guaranteed

Between sales, manufacturing, clinical work and more, there are many career paths in the hearing health industry. No matter what avenue she chooses, Nicolette will be entering a career where she can truly help people just like her. 

“I’ll tell my clients to come back and see me 200 times if they have to. It won’t take that long, but I want to make sure they’re completely satisfied.” 

Interested in the Diploma in Hearing Instrument Practitioner program at Douglas College? Visit our website to learn more: 

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