You might have heard about telemedicine or telehealthcare, which allows people to connect with their healthcare provider using video on a digital device such as a smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer. Teleaudiology is a specialized type of telehealth related to hearing healthcare. At Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates, we have dubbed our service Access Audiology.
What Is Teleaudiology?
COVID-19 isolation has created more than a few challenges when it comes to getting the necessary hearing healthcare critical to our patients. Teleaudiology provides an adequate solution to meet these challenges using the innovations of video conferencing.
Utilizing a digital connection through your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, you are able to gain access to licensed audiology professionals even when you cannot leave your home. To meet the special needs of patients who depend on critical hearing healthcare, many states, including Oregon, have created provisions that allow audiologists to provide remote care using teleconferencing.
Closures related to the current crisis have caused many with a hearing loss or those dependent on hearing aids to fall through the cracks. Teleaudiology allows these patients to continue to receive the hearing healthcare they require without violating “shelter in place” orders while providing critical face-to-face communication.
Patients with an already established relationship with their audiologist simply schedule and attend their appointments using teleconferencing, while those who need to initiate hearing healthcare can use teleaudiology for an initial consultation. Initial consultations, which require a physical hearing test, can facilitate a private diagnostic evaluation while limiting virus exposure.
“For diagnostic evaluations, some practices are staffed with one front office staffer and the provider (audiologist) is either at home or located at another clinic. The provider can interact with the patient through audio-visual conferencing, and complete an assessment appointment in a 1-manned office,” notes the Director of TeleHealth at Your Hearing Network (YHN), Suzanne Younker. This approach complies with infection control practices, protecting both patients and doctors. She also notes that one unpredicted advantage of telehealth is greater patient honesty using the medium of teleconferencing.
Teleaudiology in Oregon
Various states allow licensed audiologists to practice various degrees of teleaudiology while others also allow hearing instrument specialists (HIS) to practice using the teleconferencing format as well. Regulations specific to Oregon allow licensed audiologists to provide complete service to their patients using teleaudiology. However, not all hearing care clinics are set up to accommodate teleaudiology consultation.
Teleaudiology Provides a Variety of Advantages
Although COVID-19 has been a catalyst requiring the use of teleaudiology, it is not the only reason for the innovations related to teleaudiology. Although current circumstances have advanced the timetable of many clinics, efforts to provide better hearing healthcare through teleconferencing was already in development. Several advantages and benefits result from providing this avenue of hearing healthcare including:
- Hearing Care in Rural Areas. Because the residents of more than half of the all U.S. counties do not have access to an audiologist, teleaudiology introduces a particularly promising innovation to meet their needs.
- Remote Programming and Tech Support. It provides the capacity for hearing aid specialists to program and make adjustments to more advanced types of hearing aids with accompanying smartphone apps. Remote programming provides greater convenience for patients needing professional help adjusting their device, but cannot get to a clinic, while reducing walk-in and scheduled in-office traffic.
- Hearing Care for Patients with Limited Mobility. Patients who are homebound or have limited mobility due to a variety of circumstances are able to gain access to their audiologist without dealing with the various risks associated with traveling to an office visit.
Access Audiology from Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates
Although it provides a convenient solution to the challenges forced upon us by COVID-19, we see teleaudiology as a positive step toward improving hearing healthcare. With its many benefits for our patients and our capacity to provide enhanced service, we see Access Audiology (our style of teleaudiology) as an innovative means to meet the needs of A&HAA patients as well as providing better hearing healthcare to all of Eastern Oregon.
Click here to learn more about Access Audiology or to take advantage of a 15-minute, no-obligation teleaudiology appointment with an Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates specialist.