Tech or Counseling

Just as in a traditional audiology, teleaudiology is not all about technology. The human dynamics of hearing loss won’t go away if you treat clients across the miles. There are many opportunities for devising technological and communication strategies for your client, even while they’re at home.

Jill Preminger, who participated in our Telehealth focus group, shared this video, which she calls “Huh?”

A program like the one Jill suggests presents communication strategies for clients at home, and shows how counseling can be done online. It also has a priming effect, preparing clients to think about strategies before their appointment with the audiologist.

The information an audiologist shares on their website can focus on the counseling aspect of audiology. It can address the changes a person with hearing loss will experience in their life or personality, support and information for communication partners, and public awareness and educational materials. If there is more information out there, more people are likely to seek help.

Take GROUP Online

Just as tele-audiology doesn’t have to connect the audiologist to clients in their home, it also doesn’t have to connect just audiologists to clients. Taking Group AR meetings online offers the same support for people with hearing loss and their families, is more convenient for those who can’t make it to a meeting space because of distance or time constraints, and allows the audiologists and clients to develop a network through technology. These meetings could be organized using free software such as Skype or Google Hangouts. A closed Facebook group is a private way to conduct conversations that are not happening in real time, but is using a platform familiar to many. Ida collaborators Deborah Ferrari and Ariane Laplante-Lévesque have used free software Padlet for student group work.

Talking to people with hearing loss about their technological solutions via teleaudiology has its advantages as well. It may help a client to be in familiar surroundings when discussing technology they are already using, as environmental noises might serve as better reminders than a very quiet room in a clinic. You can do an accurate needs assessment when you can see what kind of environment your client is in.

In a second Skype appointment, Heidi Limareff asks her mother about how she’s managing with her new hearing aids:

Heidi could just as easily have this follow-up appointment with a client who has a PSAP or implantable device. She could also fit in clients that couldn’t make her office hours, providing additional value to both the fitting and the client’s rehabilitation.

Case study: Gardner Audiology

Jodi Conter is an audiologist at Gardner Audiology in Florida. Gardner has five different locations, so audiologists aren’t in the same clinic every day. Clients have reacted positively to Gardner using tele-audiology to accommodate them on days when they aren’t in their nearest clinic:

 “I am using telehealth to see hearing aid patients in remote offices. I counsel, make hearing aid adjustments, and can inspect ear canals via video otoscopy. I have a licensed audiology assistant in the remote office with the patient.

"The audiology assistant in the remote offices pulls up the patient file in Noah and then connects the hearing aids to the computer. I use LogMeIn to remotely take control of the computer/hearing aids and make the adjustment. I am visiting face to face with the patient using FaceTime so they know what I am doing.

Dr. Erica Dombrowsky demonstrates a hearing aid adjustment from her clinic in Miami with a client in the Florida Keys. Video via the Veterans Administration Facebook page.

"Good bandwidth/internet speed is critical for success. It is also important to have good speakers when you are communicating with hearing impaired patients.

"The patient is most appreciative that they do not have to make a return visit or they do not have to wait for me to come to that office again to see them!”

Telehealth is a way to improve client relationships and satisfaction through counseling and tech solutions. Audiologists have a way to fill gaps in education, awareness, support, and service for clients and their families. The presence of new technology doesn’t take away from the human dynamic of hearing loss; when audiologists are reaching clients that they could not otherwise reach, it strengthens the human connection.