This month we caught up with John Nikolarakos from Hearing Australia to discuss the launch of the Victorian Cochlear Implant Program, and how it benefits staff and patients at Hearing Australia clinics across Victoria.
Can you describe your role at Hearing Australia and a bit about your professional background?
My role with Hearing Australia is a Clinical Coach for staff across the North and East of Victoria. There are a number of elements to the role but the primary focus is to ensure the delivery of an exceptional client experience and I do this through the training and development of our staff. We are always looking to incorporate initiatives which improve client outcomes and in a constantly evolving world, there’s never a shortage of new solutions and strategies we can learn as the hearing professionals and share with our clients.
I started as a general audiologist over 20 years ago before specialising with a focus on adults with complex communication needs. I have also managed a number of our offices in both metro and regional Victoria and have been in the role of Clinical Coach for 15 years including across several states. I’ve been privileged to work with some incredibly talented audiologists in the profession throughout this journey learning skills I try to impart on our own Network of staff.
How did you and your team get involved in the Victorian Cochlear Implant Program (VCIP)?
Hearing Australia got involved with the VCIP through our Principal Audiologist for CSO Adults, Emma Scanlan. Choice of solutions was something Emma wanted to ensure all clients were accessing including products not supplied by Hearing Australia directly. Despite the ongoing development in hearing aids, some clients still report difficulty hearing their communication partners and as such, sometimes we have to look at alternatives including implantable devices. In partnership with the experts in this area and with the support of our very enthusiastic clinicians, we’ve been able to implement a program which ensures clients are able to make a more informed decision about their options.
Why is this program important?
This program has been important on many levels. Clients are accessing information sooner in their rehab journey, are hearing from others having been through similar challenges as them, and are having their questions and concerns addressed more expertly. Clinicians have also learnt more about the technology, the referral pathway and built great relationships with others in the profession as a result of the program. In addition, Hearing Australia has been able to further raise the bar in its commitment to improving the lives of some very vulnerable members of the community.
What is your number 1 tip for identifying eligible cochlear implant candidates?
A tip I find handy to reflect on is to challenge my mindset and approach appointments with the view that ‘everyone could benefit from an implant and it’s my responsibility to discuss it with all of them unless there’s a good reason not to’. I find this is a more proactive strategy than thinking ‘I’ll bring it up if I have to’. The approaches may appear only subtly different but they deliver very different outcomes.