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  • Kathleen Wallace

Do Virtual Visits Work for Audiology?

This is a common concern for many people new to telehealth, and those seeking audiological care are no different. We're used to calling to schedule appointments, showing up 15 minutes early for endless paperwork, waiting an indeterminate amount of time in waiting rooms and exam rooms, entering a soundproof booth for a traditional hearing test, immediately being counseled on the results and, when appropriate, provided with the recommendation of scheduling a hearing aid evaluation or another version of follow-up care.

But what if we want something more efficient, more convenient, or more aligned with what we as patients want?

COVID 19 catapulted telehealth into the mainstream. For audiology, this has morphed into a few different iterations, but most commonly telehealth has been used for follow-up hearing aid appointments, with the capabilities of adjusting hearing aid programming in the software right from your home. A major caveat, however, is that this service is usually reserved for existing patients with known hearing losses who already utilized hearing aids. Most audiologists are still most comfortable with fitting hearing aids in person to ensure proper physical fit, the health of your ear canal, and the ability of the patient to correctly care for and insert their hearing aids.

Tuned, the telehealth platform that is use, and other technological advancements have greatly expanded what can be accomplished in virtual appointments. Patients who want convenient and efficient care can now take a validated hearing screener right on their own computer and meet with an audiologist for a video call. This time can be used to learn about your hearing and your hearing screening results, ear hygiene (no Q tips!), safe listening habits, hearing conservations, communication strategies, and how to support a loved one with hearing loss.

One of my favorite ways to use telehealth appointments is to function as an objective third party consultant; often, people see a local audiologist and may receive a recommendation for hearing aids, but they want a second opinion or to learn more about their options. With the convenience of telehealth, you can upload your most recent hearing test for professional review, and we will discuss your hearing in more detail. After a thorough conversation guided by what is most important to you, I'll provide an array of recommendations, ranging from behavioral changes and strategies to apps and computer software, all the way up to self-fit or professionally fit hearing aid options.

Lastly, audiological services go far beyond just the hearing aid. Telehealth is the perfect medium for auditory training, also known as listening therapy. While this is often a lesser-known aspect of hearing care, auditory training consists of a series of exercises conducted over an 8–12-week program aimed at improving one's listening ability. In short, it is physical therapy for your ears, strengthening your 'hearing muscles.'

If you have any questions about if virtual visits or right for you, or if you are ready to schedule your own appointment, reach out today!

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