The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many healthcare providers operate and hearing healthcare is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic is a true black swan event. The prevalence of foreign travel and the virus's ease of transmission has spread at an unprecedented rate. The need for physical distancing has prompted widespread acceptance of telehealth solutions, and hearing healthcare is no exception. In hearing aid settings, virtual care options have added convenience for our patients.
Instead of coming into a hearing practice office for your appointment, virtual hearing healthcare allows you to receive face-to-face care on some follow-up services through your phone or tablet. This means you can speak with a hearing specialist and get your hearing aids adjusted while still staying safely at home.
You'll benefit most from virtual hearing care if:
As we continue to make our way through this pandemic, there's no doubt that hearing aid reprogramming and virtual care are a godsend for the many who are currently practicing social distancing and avoiding in-person appointments. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of in-person hearing healthcare that it can't replace.
Comprehensive hearing examinations
Despite advancements in online hearing screening, it is still impossible to obtain a thorough hearing test online due to equipment limitations. We wouldn't know whether you had a sensorineural hearing loss, a mixed hearing loss, or a conductive hearing loss without an in-person hearing examination. Likewise, a visual otoscopy is also essential. This involves looking into your ears to ensure that no earwax or physical obstruction blocks your ear canal.
Real Ear Measurement
Due to the high cost of the equipment and the technical skills needed to use it correctly, Real Ear Measurement can currently only be done inside a hearing aid clinic. We consider this an essential procedure that checks that your hearing aids have been appropriately programmed to your hearing loss prescription. We do this by inserting a probe microphone tube into your ear canals to determine the amount of amplification provided by your hearing aids at each frequency of your hearing loss.
Troubleshooting hearing aid problems quickly and effectively
When a patient has a hearing aid issue, it's challenging to know the possible cause without making the patient come into our clinic for a diagnostic test on their hearing aids. Some hearing aid manufacturers allow remote diagnostic tests to be performed on their hearing aids. However, in our experience, they aren't always accurate.
An in-person hearing aid fitting
If you had a successful hearing aid fitting and your hearing care provider followed best practices, your hearing aids would be appropriately configured for you from the start, removing the need to go back in and make multiple changes within your hearing aid programming. Your hearing care provider must follow best practices when checking your hearing, fitting your hearing aids, and programming your hearing aids to do these things correctly - which can only be achieved in a hearing clinic.
Another thing to remember about virtual care is that not all hearing aids work with these services. A pair of Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids are required, and you need to have an up-to-date smartphone too.
At Applied Hearing Solutions, we use a variety of proprietary virtual remote programming platforms. While Phonak eSolutions is our preferred platform, we can remotely program hearing aids from several major brands including Signia, Oticon, Resound, and Starkey.
Virtual remote platforms allow us to program your hearing aids in real-time, or gives us the option to send you programming packages that you can upload when it is convenient for you. This allows us to offer custom programming even if you don't live in Arizona or are currently traveling out of state. This assures that you always have access to professional support, even if you can’t make it into the clinic.
These remote platforms also have a feature called Datalogging making it possible to download user hearing aid data. This allows us to analyze:
We usually give patients screenshots of this data to see precisely what their hearing aids are doing. The goal is to ensure that you have continued success with your hearing aids and have convenient access to care no matter where you are.