If you passed through Perth’s Yagan Square towards the end of last year, you may have spotted a familiar face looking back at you from the giant screen on the square’s Digital Tower. Azadeh Ebrahimi-Madiseh, Telethon Speech & Hearing’s Head of Hearing Services, was featured in a celebration of achievers in the Premier’s Science Awards of 2022.
Azadeh was nominated as one of the finalists in last year’s awards for her contribution to medical research. Her doctorate study explored the motivations and barriers in patients’ decision-making on cochlear implantation as adults, with some unexpected results.
Although she ultimately lost out to category winners Nikhlish Bapoo (Bioengineer) and Kathryn Ross (Astrophysicist), Azadeh’s nomination is a major feather in her cap and helps to shine a much-needed light on some of the challenges in service delivery for cochlear implants in adults.
While cochlear implants have the potential to significantly improve a person’s quality of life in personal and professional spheres by restoring their hearing, only a fraction of eligible adults access one.
One aspect of her research concludes that decisions to undertake a cochlear implant are more heavily influenced by person-related factors than external ones.
“This was an interesting finding, as the majority of research in the field to date has emphasised external factors such as cost and inconvenience of travel,” Azadeh explained.
“Some of the most prominent barriers identified in this study were fear of surgery, fear of the unknown, fear of losing the hearing they have, hearing unsuccessful stories about cochlear implants (CI), and misinformation about CI,” she said.
The findings emphasise the importance of understanding individual client needs and providing individualised care in clinical settings. This could have far-reaching implications for how services are designed and how the outcomes of services are measured at organisational and system level. The collective outcome of her doctoral research proposes a new model of care in cochlear implantation.
“In practice, this means focusing on clients’ underlying emotional components of decision making as the first step to address their needs,” she said. “This includes building rapport and gaining the trust of the client, addressing the underlying fears and uncertainties before reasoning and rationalising the importance of intervening with their hearing loss.
“That means being less methodical and protocol-driven, being more compassionate, and having a greater focus on the outcome that matters to the patient.”
Hearing loss affects around 3.6 million Australians. Regrettably, fewer than 10 percent of adults in Australia who would benefit from a CI end up receiving one – with potentially detrimental psychosocial, emotional, educational, and economic impacts.
Azadeh’s ongoing commitment to research that helps to improve service delivery in Western Australia’s ear and hearing health space has positively influenced service models at hearing implant clinics. At TSH, we couldn’t be prouder!