"Change is the only constant in life. One's ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life." - Benjamin Franklin
As audiologists, we are adaptable. We adapt to meet the needs of our patients, we adapt to changes in hearing aid technology, and we will continue to adapt to the emergence of disruptive technologies. But is being adaptable enough?
What if we want to thrive? Here's how in the age of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing solutions.
1. Asking Hard Questions
Research shows that new technology forces businesses to innovate and differentiate. Likewise, disruptive technologies in audiology compel us to reflect on our patient's experiences and what it means to be an audiologist.
Are we giving our patients what they want? Are we doing a good job educating our patients on the importance of hearing testing and appropriate audiological care? Are we educating our patients on how hearing better is not only about hearing aids? The answer: there is room for improvement.
2. Improving the Patient Experience by Implementing Verification Measures
Evidence-based recommendations and verification measures, such as probe-microphone and real-ear measures (REMs), are important for professional care. However, they need to be implemented consistently. Surveys indicate the clinical use of REMs ranges between 20% and 50%. A recent study by Amlani, Pumford, and Gessling suggests, "REM can enhance patient psychology of the amplification process, the self-perceived benefit of their amplification device, satisfaction with the practitioner, and by association, patient loyalty.
Furthermore, "the provision of REM can positively impact the user's confidence with, and perception of, their hearing aid." Including REMs in hearing aid fitting protocols improves patient satisfaction. It also educates patients on the importance of seeking proper audiological care. Finally, it helps our profession survive the age of disruption.
3. Improving Accessibility With Teleaudiology
When traditional hearing care and OTCs face off on accessibility, there is little arguing that OTCs end up on top. So how can we create more accessible services and solutions for our clients? One way is to use teleaudiology technology to provide your patients with outstanding hearing care regardless of distance or time constraints.
With tele audiology solutions like the Interacoustics Remote Audiology System (RAS), audiologists can now conduct a full hearing appointment flow without being present. Grason-Stadler also offers an asynchronous tele-audiology solution called GSI AMTAS (Automated Method for Testing Auditory Sensitivity).
This system captures audiometric test data remotely and then stores results to forward to an audiologist for interpretation. In addition, all major hearing aid manufacturers offer telecare with options to adjust hearing aids remotely. In this age of disruption, we must let our current and prospective patients know that in-house and remote options are available to suit their hearing and lifestyle needs.
4. Educating Our Patients
Our responsibility is to educate our patients. Hearing better is not just about hearing aids. We are transitioning our profession from a product-centric to a patient-centric approach.
Implementing a patient-centric model in your practice includes understanding and acknowledging the patient as an individual, conveying information and sharing decision-making. Treatment plans should be tailored for the individual and include communication strategies, aural rehabilitation, tinnitus therapy and assistive listening devices when applicable.
Patient-centric care involves patients in the process by using communication needs assessments like the COSI, in which the patient self-rates their situational needs and documents their perceived difficulty on a scale from 1-5 before and after trialling solutions.
Patients should be made aware of the consequences of untreated hearing loss and how hearing loss is associated with health conditions such as social isolation, depression, anxiety, falls and other injuries, cognitive decline, and dementia (ASHA). Audiologists must return to patient-centric care and away from product-centric solutions to thrive in the age of disruptive technology.
5. Diversifying Hearing Care Services
ASHA defines audiologists as "primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing and balance disorders in individuals of all ages, from infants to teens to adults and the elderly." As our industry continues to evolve, audiologists must diversify services to include vestibular assessment, treatment, and cerumen removal.
During this age of disruption, it is critical to ask hard questions, reflect on the answers, and implement patient-centric changes in your clinical practice. Audiologists must lean into the full scope of practice and decrease the gap between our patient's expectations and our offerings. The emergence of OTCs has spurred thoughtful conversations about what being an audiologist means and how we can better serve our patients. Let's focus all our energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.
Improving Patient Perception of Clinical Services Through Real-Ear Measurements | Canadian Audiologist
Susan Flynn is a practicing audiologist with varied experience in private practice audiology, manufacturer technical training, social media marketing and content creation. Susan is the clinical operations and training manager at Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a Master of Science in Audiology from the University of British Columbia and certifications in writing for content marketing, social media, and search engine marketing.
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