Where Does Audiology Go From Here?

Audiology has changed dramatically over the years, in terms of technology and innovation, but as with other medical specialties, nothing has brought about a sea change to the industry quite as much as the COVID-19 pandemic that the world is still facing. 

In this new climate, remote care and telehealth are helping audiologists bridge the gap of hearing healthcare accessibility. Among our network of clinics across the United Kingdom, immediate challenges included a lack of equipment, online accessibility, and experience offering telehealth. We also found that generally only premium hearing aid models included embedded remote care features, so that this service was not available to everyone. 

Even before the pandemic, audiologists may have wondered how their role can remain relevant in the face of online hearing tests and direct-to-consumer hearing aids. Given all of these factors, the need to quickly adapt to telehealth should be seen as an opportunity to thrive and further develop a patient-centered approach to care.

Virtual care allows us to reach more people more quickly, and patients have told us they appreciate having a choice in how their hearing is cared for. In addition to online video appointments, we have been utilizing one old-fashioned approach: the telephone call. It’s well known that untreated hearing loss can lead to anxiety and loneliness, so as part of our patient care we have been proactively ringing our patients just to ask how they are handling any hearing challenges during the pandemic. How are their hearing aids performing? Do they need adjusting? This simple courtesy call has helped reassure our patients that they are not on their own, even in isolation.

Relatedly, the consensus from our clinics is that patients still want traditional face-to-face appointments, so we have been keeping patients updated on the new, constantly evolving safety guidelines to make in-person visits as safe as possible. 

Needless to say we follow safety protocols issued by the government and industry groups. Finding a reliable, consistent source for personal protective equipment was an early hurdle. We employ the now-standard COVID-19 screening questions, strict sanitization and cleaning methods, regular risk assessments and staff virus updates and training, a reduction in available appointment times, social distancing wherever possible, and continual hand and respiratory hygiene aseptic techniques. 

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