Amy Sarow

Amy Sarow: An Audiologist’s Perspective on Healthcare

Amy Sarow gives us an audiologist’s perspective on healthcare on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver. Amy Sarow is from Michigan and is right between Generation X and Generation Y (the Millennials.) She received her degree in audiology from Iowa State University.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Amy Sarow shared an audiologist’s perspective on healthcare:

  • There is a link between the ability to hear and process language and a person’s quality of life     
  • Stigma still exists around hearing aids and other assistive technology        
  • People do not want hearing aids, they want to be able to communicate and pursue relationships

You can connect with Amy Sarow through the links below:


Here is the text of my conversation with Amy Sarow as she presented an audiologist’s perspective on healthcare:

Introduction to Amy Sarow

Rob Oliver: Thank you and welcome to another edition of perspectives on healthcare. My guest today is Amy Sorrow. She is from up in Michigan. She is an audiologist. She is right on the line between generation X and generation Y. So I’m… she can feel free to choose whether she identifies as a millennial or wherever that is, not as important but just to kind of give you a guideline as to where she’s coming from. Amy, welcome to the podcast.

Amy Sarow: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in healthcare

Rob Oliver: Absolutely. So can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in healthcare, please?

Amy Sarow: Yeah. So I started in audiology. finished my graduate program actually last year from the University of Iowa. And I did my externship residency program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. So I’ve been to a few different areas of the country, originally from Michigan though. And prior to what I do now in audiology, I actually taught English abroad in Germany. Um, so I’ve done some different things, but mostly I work with people, helping them to be able to communicate and have a better quality of life. Um, that’s essentially what I do as an audiologist and in a way that’s what I did also as a teacher, um, helping people to have the voice in a foreign language. Um, yeah.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So talk to me about how you see the link between communication and quality of life.

Amy Sarow Absolutely. I think people are becoming more aware of this nowadays, especially during the pandemic. We’ve seen a lot more people coming through that are having hearing difficulty. It can be really frustrating when you can’t understand what someone is saying, and you want to take part in the conversation, you want to connect with family, with friends, in work activities. just having a barrier there where you’re having to use more listening effort to try to understand what someone is saying, it’s frustrating. And it takes away from your energy that you could be expending doing something else. You know, instead of concentrating on what was that word that person said, you could be thinking about the meaning or thinking about what your thoughts are about what they’re saying. So it just frees up some cognitive resources, some energy. when you’re able to hear. And so it can be really rewarding working with people who have hearing difficulties or struggle with tinnitus or even in audiology. We also work with imbalance and dizziness, just helping them to understand what’s going on and what can be done about it and finding treatment options and things that can help.

Your Definition of Quality Healthcare

Rob Oliver: Okay. What does quality health care mean to you?

Amy Sarow: Yeah, so to me that means access to important information, things that you need to know in order to be able to make a good decision about what it is that you need. Knowing what the problem is is helpful. Sometimes someone, for example, I’ll use an audiology example, someone is perhaps not aware the extent of their hearing difficulty. They just know that they feel depressed or isolated. but they’re not aware of, oh, I actually have this problem and this problem actually has a solution. So getting access to that kind of information in a way where you can talk with someone, explain your difficulties, have them listen to you, and then be able to have a real discussion about, okay, so what can we do about this to help improve your life and to help you just feel more connected, feel happier and more content with your life?

Rob Oliver: Okay. What do you, how do you handle the issues with stigma where people associate hearing loss as an old person’s issue and they don’t, they don’t want to feel old. They don’t want to have a hearing aid that makes them look old. Can you talk about that side of the work that you do?

Amy Sarow: Yeah, that’s a big one. So stigma is still out there. I think that over time things are getting better now. and people are more open to, you know, sometimes we even see, I know you alluded to the generations, you know, some people are proud of things that make them different, and they may choose a bright color for a hearing aid, but not everyone’s like that. You know, some people are, they feel more of that stigma. I think that it’s gonna take time before there is more of a comfort level or less stigma around that topic, but when I talk with people, I say, you know, what makes you feel that that’s related to, you know, let’s say age or, oh, I’m getting old and that’s a bad thing because really you’re taking a step to help yourself. You’re making your life easier. You’re making it easier for your loved ones and perhaps, you know, they may see something behind your ear, but also, you know, if you’re saying what a lot and you’re missing out on things, that’s life that you’re missing out on and that’s, you know, that’s hard and that’s That’s too bad, honestly, because there are things that you can do. It just takes some getting used to. Um, it takes also a willingness to try things and, and yeah, sometimes it’s uncomfortable at first and we have to kind of deal with some of those emotions about like, okay, I like, you know, that I’m starting to hear better, but I don’t like wearing this. It’s, it is a real thing for some people. And I think sometimes it just takes time.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. See. From my perspective, I deal with stigma all the time because people look at me and they make assumptions about me. They think I’m stupid or whatever it is. But those to me are, it’s stigma from the outside. Sometimes I feel like what you’re dealing with is stigma from the inside where someone feels. Yeah. But I would also take that, and what I’m hearing you say though, to me, life is about relationships. And the foundation of relationships is the ability to communicate. And so there, the point to overcoming the personal stigma and the personal hesitation about any form of hearing aid or something like that is to point out. The fact that your relationships are dependent on your ability to communicate and to receive communication. And that’s got to be the major selling point. Am I properly understanding that?

Amy Sarow: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s right. And, you know, to be honest, no one comes into the office typically saying, I want a hearing aid, you know, what they want, actually, is what you’re describing, they want to feel more connected, they want to be able to communicate, it’s not the hearing aid itself, that’s just a vehicle to get them there. And so sometimes that just takes some time, you know, some, some acceptance and, and some patience. Yeah.

What does quality healthcare look like?

Rob Oliver: Okay. Can you give me an example of quality health care?

Amy Sarow: Yeah, so I think that sometimes I know in my experience, just thinking outside of audiology, you know, but I’ve gone to see a provider, I’ve had interactions where I thought, you know, gosh, this person really took time to listen to me and to make me feel heard. And so to me, that’s a really important thing, especially when you’re working with a healthcare provider, you’re trusting that person. you’re coming to them with a problem and you’re wanting to get some input and you’re coming to an expert. So it’s just really a nice thing when going back to the communication, when you have, it feels like a dialogue. The person isn’t jumping to a snap judgment or they’re getting some input from you about, okay, so tell me what’s going on with this. Like I’m really interested in knowing what’s going on and how we can work together to solve it.

Rob Oliver: There is a small amount of irony in the fact that the audiologist says, I want to be heard. But, but you’re not, you’re not just talking about the sound waves, reaching the practitioners ear. You’re, you’re, you’re, you’re talking about them listening to what you’re saying and that there’s, you know, there’s actual communication. And I think what you’re talking about is so important to say it’s not, are they listening to see how quickly they can quote unquote, come to a diagnosis, or are they listening to find out what’s really going on in my life?

What do you wish people understood about audiology?

Rob Oliver: What do you wish people understood about your role in healthcare?

Amy Sarow: So I think that there, there actually aren’t so many people who know exactly what an audiologist is or what they do. Um, I think it would be nice if people understood that more or had more of a working understanding. Sometimes I’ve worked in settings where the audiologist is working with an ENT, and both of these providers work together. It’s really a partnership and a team, both benefit from each other. The ENT is an expert in all kinds of medical diseases of the ear, surgery, all of that. and the audiologist works with hearing loss, diagnosing, identifying, making treatment recommendations for hearing loss. And so I think sometimes people assume that the EMT is the expert on all of those areas, and really it’s a partnership. And so I think audiologists are really open to learning from other professions also, like in the balance world, you know, physical therapists, also ENTs, neurologists. all of those different professions. So yeah, so I guess it’d be nice if people just knew a bit more about it.

Rob Oliver: Okay. And listen, that’s exactly why I started this podcast, because my hope was to bring in people from different roles to talk about this is what we do. This is the service that we provide. And to literally educate your colleagues in the medical community about okay, here are here are the other the other people that are doing work in this area and this is what I can learn from them and this is how we can possibly work together and increase the quality of care that our patients are receiving. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about.

What excites you about the future of healthcare?

Rob Oliver: So what excites you about the future of healthcare?

Amy Sarow: Yeah, well, thinking, you know, in my area in audiology, I think there’s a lot of really exciting things going on. If I’m thinking technology wise, there is some really interesting research going on right now about regenerating hair cells in the inner ear. I don’t know if you’ve heard about, there’s some trials, some drug trials from frequency therapeutics, and they’re actually seeing really promising results where they’re able to get improvement in speech understanding. or trial or going through the FDA process with all of that. But I think that is just amazing. And it’s unbelievable to think that within the next few years, that type of technology or medicine might be available and the difference that that could really make for people. And I’m excited about that.

Rob Oliver: Yep. And as well you should be. Listen, I’ve got a question for you. And feel free to say I’m out of my league with this. I see a lot of advertisements on TV for hearing aids and that you can get without the help of an audiologist. Can you talk about why it’s, why is it important to have the audiologist involved in the process there or, and why, why it makes a difference?

Amy Sarow: Yeah. I think that’s a fantastic question. I know I’m getting a lot of these types of questions right now, especially with that OTC, you know, for OTC hearing aids that’s coming out next month. So there are some devices available. I won’t, you know, name names, but there are things that you can buy online. You can take online tests and that sort of thing. You know, some people do find those types of things beneficial. and it’s, I’m not saying, you know, something really negative about it. You have to think about what is it that your difficulty is? So, and how much hearing loss do you have? If you’re someone who’s never, ever taken a hearing test, you have no idea what your degree of hearing loss is, I don’t know that it’s the best thing to go out, you know, and buy one of these online things, taking an online test to get it. Because when you take an online test, it’s really more like a screening process. You’re using your computer or maybe some headphones you have at home. It’s giving you an idea based on this, you might have this amount of hearing loss. But it’s not looking at some people, for example, have genetic things with the bones in their ear that looks like hearing loss that the average person might have, but really it’s a different kind of hearing loss, and it might benefit from something a little bit different. You wouldn’t necessarily know that though, unless you go to see somebody who checks for that. Somebody who struggles a lot in background noise, they may also not find that to be the most beneficial solution for what they have. But some people do find benefit and it’s a way for them to kind of get their feet wet and try something. So I don’t want to completely negate that. So for example, the OTC hearing devices or hearing aids that are coming out, those are gonna be self-bidding devices. So if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss and you have some tech skills, like able to operate a smartphone on, an app on a smartphone, you’re comfortable putting things in your ear and kind of reading things and figuring out yourself, that can be an option for people. And it can be a more affordable way to do it. But that being said, again, if you don’t know what your degree of hearing loss is, or you’re not, you need more assistance, maybe you’re not good with smartphones, maybe it’s not the best option.

Rob Oliver: Okay, let me, let me give you an analogy and I’ll be curious to get your reaction to this. Okay? There are When it comes to my vision, okay, I go to see an eye doctor who helps me get my contact lens. And I could do some kind of test or something, but having a doctor help me get the right prescription and get the right type of contact lens is valuable information. I can pick up a pair of reading glasses at the dollar store that those are minor and they’re going to they’re going to help me with my reading. But it’s it’s a different level of expertise that comes when I’m going to the eye doctor for you know my own my nearsightedness. What is your reaction to that when it applies to the audiology world? Does that does it compare?

Amy Sarow: Absolutely. So definitely. So when you come to get a hearing test you get to an audiologist, you get a comprehensive hearing evaluation that, like I said, it tells you which part of your ear, where the source of the hearing problem is. Is it your inner ear, middle ear, is it something the outer ear? You get a check of how clear speech is coming through. So that gives us an idea of how are you going to do when we turn the volume up. that you’re going to nice clear sound or are we still expecting some challenges to be present there? You get someone who can talk to you about all the different options that are available to you and then decide on a level of technology that meets your specific needs. The professional is there to also help in the fitting process, which I think people underestimate how much by seeing a professional with that. Because things like putting them in, taking them out, Bluetooth and phones, that’s a big thing. There’s a lot of things to know with that. Yeah, so just having support and also going back to kind of what we said earlier, it’s a relationship. So unlike when you get your eyes checked, you get glasses, you get them, you leave, maybe you don’t come back until the next year. But with hearing aids, it’s actually an ongoing type of relationship. Because when we first turn your hearing aids on, it might sound too loud. It’s kind of like for many people with gradual hearing loss, it’s like you’ve been sitting in the dark and suddenly we turn the lights on, it might be too much. Maybe we have to take it up gradually a little bit at a time to let you adjust and have the sound be comfortable. And you know, adjust the sound quality to something that you’re comfortable and that you like. In addition to what research and our training shows us what you would benefit from.

A Healthcare Quality improvement Strategy

Rob Oliver: Okay. Last question for you. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Amy Sarow: Yeah, that’s a good question. So I think right now what’s most needed, it might almost seem like counterintuitive, but I think it is like self-care because I think I see a lot of people, a lot of providers that are burning out right now. Just there’s a lot of people who are short staff. they’re working long hours, they’re trying to squeeze in more people or help more people, there’s just more need. And then just talking about in one profession, I think that’s kind of across healthcare. So I think that’s one thing that a lot of people could do, just taking care of themselves, making sure they’re not overworked and so that they can give their full attention and time that their patients need.

Rob Oliver: I think it’s a well said, and it’s a reminder, who cares for the caregivers. And it’s much more difficult to care for other people when you are not taking care of yourself. Listen, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you coming in. I appreciate you sharing. And I appreciate your perspective on healthcare.

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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