Having a remote audiology appointment is a growing trend. In 2020, a survey found that prior to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, only 30 percent of the 120 audiologists surveyed had remote consultations. During COVID restrictions, 98 percent of those surveyed had remote appointments.
A remote audiology appointment enables you to access advice on how to use, set up, and connect your hearing aid(s) to Bluetooth devices and assistive technology. For example, a hearing care professional can demonstrate in real time how to pair a hearing aid with a smartphone and the myPhonak App. Speech and/or auditory rehab are also perfect fits for remote audiology appointments.
More of us are working remotely. We have video calls for work and leisure, and even with our local physician. So why not have a remote audiology appointment?
First author of the 2020 study, Gabrielle Saunders says, “Distinct advantages of remote visits [for audiologists] include reduced cost and added convenience, patients’ ability to communicate more freely from home, and increased potential to program hearing aids according to a patient’s natural listening environment.”
An advantage for us is that on a video call, we can activate live auto-captioning. This is a bonus given that many clinical settings still require face masks.
A 2021 study examined the “clinical uptake factors” for remote hearing aid support. It involved 42 audiologists from professional associations in Ontario, Canada. In a nutshell – what are the pros and cons for audiologists who provide remote support?
The study found that when considering “client-centered factors,” high importance was placed on “improving access to services using remote delivery.” A “client’s ability to communicate effectively” was also very important. The study also acknowledged that there is benefit to some appointments being carried out in a “real-world” context.
Having benefited from a home visit for a follow-up audiology appointment myself, I can attest to the usefulness of it taking place in a “real world” setting. During the appointment, I could go into the kitchen and listen to the water boiling on the kettle and the tap running. Then I could let the audiologist know what adjustments the aids needed. The same “real world” tests could happen in a remote appointment. This would be so much more useful than having adjustments made in a sound-proofed room.
“…I could let the audiologist know what adjustments the aids needed. The same “real world” tests could happen in a remote appointment.”
Audiologists in this second study commented on the benefits of remote audiology appointments in terms of “travel-related constraints and difficult to reach clients/caregivers.” Enabling the “inclusion of people within the client’s circle of care” in appointments was also mentioned. Pediatric audiologists placed a high importance level on “multilingual service delivery.” Adult audiologists were highly interested in the client’s preference for remote versus face-to-face services.
The study highlighted the importance of the availability and ease of use of technology for the audiologist and the client (e.g. internet connection, computer, software, or a smartphone/tablet). The conclusion was that the findings can be used to assist in the “clinical uptake” of remote follow-up hearing aid support services.
For those of us with poor access to public transport, mobility issues, or living in remote rural areas, the news that more audiologists might offer remote support is good. And for some people, remote support is purely a matter a personal preference.
“For those of us with poor access to public transport, mobility issues, or living in remote rural areas, the news that more audiologists might offer remote support is good.”
In Phonak’s video, “How to assist and support patients’ needs remotely,” Phonak’s Senior eSolutions Manager, Michael Blackburn says, “Nine out of 10 teens prefer remote support.”
As all hearing aid users know, different environments require different audio settings. But for some users, having to adjust settings in the company of colleagues or strangers may feel intimidating or embarrassing. However, if you have Phonak Paradise hearing aids, you can connect them to the myPhonak app. Adjustments can be made discreetly (and wirelessly) via your smartphone.
Through the app, you can receive convenient video support from your consultant. Live hearing aid calibration is available. You can also check your hearing aid and accessory settings. You can view how much charge your aid has. Managing your Bluetooth phone call connection is even possible. The app also acts as a remote control. This enables you to adjust volume and frequencies, select programs for different situations, and create your own preferred settings. You can even test your hearing directly through your hearing aids.