Telehealth and remote care for hearing services

As hearing health care practitioners, we are facing challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic.  How do we deliver hearing services to our clients in a safe way?
The incidence of hearing loss increases with age.  Hence, we tend to see more seniors at our clinics.  Our older clients are at a higher risk if they are infected with corona virus.  So, we have adapted.  We are now conducting many of our appointment protocols differently to reduce the risks to our clients.
From mid-March we have been providing some hearing services via telehealth.  Pensioners, veterans, and other eligible clients funded under the Hearing Services Program (HSP) can have some hearing services funded via telehealth.  Our Worksafe clients can also have some hearing services completed by telehealth.
Telehealth is often done by phone, which has its own challenges when talking to someone who has a hearing loss.  This is because people with hearing loss depend on visual cues and lip reading to hear optimally.  Have you heard anyone saying they can hear better when they are looking at you?  This is because we are using visual cues such as lip reading to help with hearing.  If the client with hearing loss can see us, they can use visual information to support their hearing.  For this reason, we would prefer to use video-chat for telehealth services in audiology.  In our industry we call this teleaudiology.  To be able to do teleaudiology, our clients need to have internet access and be familiar with using technology.  However, this is not always the case with our older clients.  Another compounding factor for teleaudiology services is when someone has limited English.  Despite these factors, we can do teleaudiology services with many of our clients.
The appointment types that we can do by teleaudiology include:
  • reviewing hearing aid fitting
  • reviewing your progress with hearing aids
  • troubleshooting an issue with the hearing aids
  • tinnitus counselling and support.
RemoteCare is an innovative technology in hearing aids that enables us to program some hearing aids “remotely’ via the internet.  We can offer RemoteCare to our clients who have newer hearing aids with this technology.  They must also have internet access and know how to use apps on their smart phone.  RemoteCare allows the audiologist to connect to the hearing aids via the internet.  The connection is via an app specific to the model of hearing aid.  For example, we can adjust the Oticon Opn hearing aids using ‘Oticon RemoteCare’ app.  We book a ‘remote’ appointment which we do via video-chat (like Skype).  At the same time, the audiologist can connect to the hearing aids and adjust them in real-time.  The audiologist adjusts the hearing aid programming based on the conversation with the client.   The goal is to get to the best hearing possible.  Our audiologists love it!  It works like a face-to-face appointment in many respects.  However, if there are issues with physical fit or inserting the hearing aids clients will need a face-to-face appointment.
However, we cannot do all appointments via teleaudiology or RemoteCare.  We must do some appointments face-to-face.  These include:
  • hearing tests, which we must do using calibrated equipment and in sound treated conditions
  • most hearing aid fittings as we need to check the physical fit of the hearing aids on the ear and measure the amount of sound in the ear canal
  • taking impressions for custom hearing aids
  • otoscopy – checking the ear canal and ear drum.
To reduce risks of infection in face-to-face appointments, we are reducing the time spent in close proximity to our clients.  Where we can, we are doing part of the appointment by teleaudiology and the other face-to-face.
As audiologists, we are often looking after older and hence more vulnerable people.  It is vital that when delivering our services, it is as safe as possible.  In summary, when supplying hearing services to our clients we are:
  • practicing strict infection control
  • physically distancing and managing the number of clients in a room
  • adapting our service delivery procedures
  • teleaudiology services
  • remote care hearing aid adjustments
  • reduced face-to-face time during appointments
  • kerbside help.
RemoteCare will become more common as clients upgrade their hearing aids and become familiar with apps.  The other benefits of teleaudiology and Remote Care in addition to the ones already mentioned are:
  • it can save clients time by reducing the need to travel to the clinic
  • it’s a convenient service to people who live further away or cannot drive to clinic
  • more support to clients especially in the first few days following a new hearing aid fitting
  • timely minor hearing aid adjustments and counselling.
Whilst some appointments may be delivered in a different way as we embrace new service delivery models, we are still committed to providing our clients with the best hearing care.

You can contact us on 1300 761 021 or book an appointment online.

Call 1300 761 021 or on make an online appointment booking enquiry here.

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