Why Is Telehealth in Audiology Occurring?
It was quite common for people to visit their hearing specialist in person on a consistent basis just a few years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that a bit, forcing providers to find new ways to connect with care providers digitally. There are many exceptional benefits to this. While the need for physical and social distancing became a reality during the pandemic, it ushered in changes in how readily accessible and high in quality virtual care can be.
While it is still important to come into a hearing practice from time to time for evaluations and hands-on care, many of the services audiologists offer can be done virtually. This could allow for faster and more efficient follow-up services. It makes hearing care more accessible and easier to manage over time.
Who Benefits from Virtual Hearing Care?
Telehealth hearing care may be beneficial to many people. Some people may benefit more than others.
· You don’t live close to your audiologist. There are numerous areas where access to a qualified audiologist may be limited, especially in more rural areas. If you are unable to easily access a provider close to you – or the care provider you want to use is not close – telehealth can offer an opportunity for you to connect.
· You have limited mobility. Some people are simply unable to easily get to and from an audiologist’s office. Many people who have limited mobility can utilize these services whether they are in an assisted living community, nursing home, or homebound. Even if you can get around, but it’s difficult to do, telehealth offers a solution.
· You are in a higher risk group. Some people may be in a high-risk group and do not feel that in-person meetings and appointments are safe enough. If you could be at risk in any way through an in-person hearing appointment, seek out a telehealth appointment instead.
Telehealth in hearing care is accessible to many people, even if you do not have one of these specific needs. Virtual hearing care could be more readily available to you than you realize.
How Does a Remote Audiology Appointment Work?
Telehealth can be very easy to master even if you are not proficient in using technology. Telehealth is a type of telecommunication and electronic information sharing process designed to support a long-distance level of care with you and your healthcare professional. There are various technologies available to help with this process, including streaming media, videoconferencing, and wireless communications.
How does it actually work, though?
Think of telehealth in audiology as a video call with a friend. There are various technologies that are used to allow you to have a video call like this, such as FaceTiming if you have an Apple device. What is different about telehealth is that the technology is done in a way to protect your privacy and meets all of the HIPAA compliance requirements. That means that your personal medical information remains protected during your appointment no matter if in person or at a distance.
When you set up your appointment, you will receive a link to click on in an email at the time of your session. All you have to do is to click the link and follow any instructions on the screen. Most of the time, it is very simple to set up and use. You can use your laptop or desktop if it has a camera or use your smartphone for the process.
What Can Telehealth Appointments in Audiology Do for You?
You may be unsure what to expect from this process. How can you get hearing care, which seems very much like a personal, hands-on experience, over the internet? Not all types of service can be done in this way (more on that in a moment). However, there are some outstanding services that we can provide, especially after that first appointment with our team.
Programming of Your Hearing Aid – Remotely
One of the services you can obtain remotely through telehealth is remote hearing aid programming. Many of today's hearing aids allow this feature. It allows your audiologist to log into your hearing aid from a distance to make programming changes as needed. Once you are an established patient in an audiologist's office, it is possible to perform this type of distance programming of your hearing aid as needed.
Some hearing aids come with features to make remote programming very easy to do. That means if you are having any concerns with your hearing aid or there are any type of changes that could better your hearing experience, your audiologist is able to make those changes while you’re at home, comfortable.
How does this work?
Many of the hearing aids today are designed to enable telehealth care like this. It works very easily to allow you to set up a virtual appointment and manage the experience. Some hearing aids have an app you can download onto your smartphone. This allows your hearing aid specialist to connect to your hearing aids from a distance.
To work, this type of technology requires that the hearing aid pairs with the smartphone. This may be done through Bluetooth or other technology you already have on your hearing aid. You will need to download the app to your smartphone and set up an account.
You will then be able to have your telehealth appointment with your provider. As you do this, you will get to speak to your provider about any concerns or needs you have. Your audiologist can then log into the account and gain access to your hearing aid’s programming.
Getting Remote Updates
Hearing aids operate on complex technology. The technology you get is going to be very effective and reliable, but like most other forms of technology, your hearing aid may need to be updated from time to time. Your audiologist can help you to get these updates, often, without having to come into the office to do so. Instead, you can download the update from the app. This can be done automatically in some situations, depending on the type of update and your need for it. This could help you to have a faster and simpler way of getting the updates you need.
Some of the hearing aid technology available today allows you to do even more, including getting real-time support and assistance from the app. You can download the app and then request help through a video consultation. Even if you do not have a hearing aid just yet, this is a good way to learn a bit more about the technology.
Let’s say you are struggling with some aspect of the hearing aid during your routine use. You can use telehealth to connect with your audiologist for some guidance and help, such as changing settings or fine tuning the functionality to provide you with a better experience. This is something that can easily be done through some of the best telehealth audiology care available today.
Handling It Remotely Even Easier
One of the things to know about telehealth hearing care like this is that the technology can be done without a formal appointment. Let’s say that you want to improve the hearing aid function. You send a request for the service that you need or want through your app. Your hearing care professional receives the information you have, along with a description of the situation and your current record of hearing aid settings.
They can then make changes to fine-tune your hearing. This can be done right through the app without even having to call and set up an appointment in person. You can also use the app to provide feedback and guidance to your audiologist about your experience, too.
When Can You Not Use Telehealth in Audiology?
There are some times when virtual care may not be ideal. You will need to set up an in-person meeting for situations such as the following:
- A full hearing examination: Having a hearing test online may be possible, but it will not be as accurate and comprehensive as an in-person process because of the equipment limitations.
- Real ear measurement: You may be able to get some support through telehealth, but for many, the equipment and technical skills needed for measurement come from in-person meetings.
There are many benefits to the use of telehealth hearing aid care. Maintaining your hearing aids may be far easier than you realize using this type of technology.