I hope that everyone is staying safe and socially distancing during this time! While figuring out what our new day to day is going to look like, one of our goals is to continue to educate our patients (that is probably you, but if not, welcome newcomers!). Today’s blog is going to focus on the available options for remote audiology assistance, which is potentially going to play a larger part in patient care as we move forward in a more cautious environment. You may not know it but depending on when/where your hearing aids were manufactured, they may already be equipped with some type of remote audiology abilities right now.
Below I’ll outline the two basic versions of how remote audiology support can be applied, as well as list some of the manufacturers we work with that currently support this option in their software. I’ve also included links to manufacturer websites, where you can access more in-depth details about what types of remote assistance are available for any given company.
There are two basic formats of remote audiology support: assistance that occurs in live action (takes place immediately, usually over video chat or an online messaging service, requiring an appointment with the provider before starting), or assistance that occurs on a more extended timeline (a request put in through an app that the audiologist reviews, makes adjustments for, and sends the programming back to the patient for approval).
Live action assistance, as detailed above, typically requires an appointment to be scheduled, exactly like coming into the office, in order to make sure the provider is available, and/or camera ready. The hearing healthcare provider and the patient would then have a discussion (exactly like an in-office appointment), and the audiologist would use remote programming software to make any adjustments necessary, or walk the patient through any troubleshooting that may be necessary with the devices. Manufacturers that we work with at Andros ENT & Sleep Center offering this option include Widex, Signia, ReSound, and Phonak. Also included in the category of “live action assistance” is online messaging that goes directly to your hearing healthcare provider (manufacturers that offer this include Signia), for questions that require immediate assistance but not necessarily a face-to-face discussion.
Extended timeline assistance does not usually require a scheduled appointment, best practice is currently to set “office hours” where the hearing healthcare provider will be consistently available at the computer, checking remote fitting software for messages, which encourages timely resolutions to requests. This approach consists of the patient initiating a request for services through their hearing aid phone application – services available remotely include hearing aid programming adjustments, and trouble-shooting suggestions through the messaging system. The hearing healthcare provider would receive the request, make whatever adjustment or suggestion that would be most appropriate for the situation, and pushes the changes made back to the hearing aid phone application through the remote fitting software. The patient is then able to try the settings. Manufacturers that we work with at Andros ENT & Sleep Center who offer this option include Starkey, ReSound, and Signia.
While the availability of remote audiology assistance is becoming more mainstream, it is still likely that unless hearing aids have been purchased within the last 3-5 years, they will not have the ability to use the types of technology listed above – however, it really does depend on the manufacturer (compatibility varies). While both remote audiology assistance formats offer benefits, as discussed above, it is also important to note that all require use of the hearing aid phone applications, compatible devices, and the ability of the audiologist to access the hearing aid fitting software.
Tele-audiology will continue to grow and develop more uses, especially in this time when patient care is still close to our hearts but maintaining the safety and health of all our patients is of the utmost importance. We hope to educate you (our patients and friends) further, as time goes on. Andros ENT & Sleep Center – whether near or far, we’re hear to enhance life.
Stay safe and be well, all!