By 2050, the number of people living with hearing loss is predicted to double and reach over 2 billion globally. In 2013, a study conducted by Windmill and Freeman (2013) concluded to meet the explosive demand for audiologists in the United States alone, the number of people who entered the field needed to increase by 50% immediately. Since then, the audiology profession has remained stagnant. With uncertainty around what over-the-counter hearing aids means to the audiology profession, and only 40% of graduates going on to enter the field, numbers may decline further, fueling the audiology crisis. How can we meet demand and increase hearing healthcare access in a declining profession? Part of the solution is to leverage teleaudiology.
What is Teleaudiology?
Teleaudiology is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide hearing healthcare from a distance.
Two Main Variations of Teleaudiology
1. Synchronous Live Video
A synchronous live video appointment is a two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology. A teleaudiology clinical technician is required on-site with the patient for a diagnostic hearing test. The patient can join the live video with the audiologist independently if testing setup is not required.
Synchronous Equipment Requirements
- PC based audiometer
- Video Otoscope
- Rear Ear Machine
- Hearing aid programming software
The Interacoustics Remote Audiology System (RAS) is a teleaudiology solution that provides audiologists with the option to perform audiological services remotely. With this system, audiologists can conduct a full hearing appointment flow without being present. In this setup the on-site technician functions as the audiologist’s hands and eyes. The system combines an Interacoustics Equinox audiometer, video otoscope, active room noise monitor, computer, two monitors, microphones, video camera, speaker, assistant headset, optional REM system and/or Titan Tympanometer into a single cabinet case.
These systems can be set up in a sound booth, quiet room or on a cart. The configurations are low cost, high return on investment solutions that can improve access to care and help retain patients. A clinic owner can extend satellite days by handling annual re-checks and hearing instrument adjustments remotely from anywhere, and on any day, while reserving in-person satellite clinic days for higher-value visits.
See RAS Video
2. Asynchronous Store-and-Forward
An asynchronous store-and-forward teleaudiology approach requires a video otoscope and an automated testing system. In the store-and-forward approach, an on-site technician performs video otoscopy and places transducers for testing. The technician later sends stored video otoscope images and test results to the audiologist for interpretation.
Grason-Stadler offers an asynchronous teleaudiology solution called AMTAS (Automated Method for Testing Auditory Sensitivity). This system captures audiometric test data remotely and stores results to be forwarded to an audiologist for interpretation. AMTAS is software that allows a patient to walk through a basic audiometric evaluation. The software is available in two versions that have different benefits, GSI AMTAS ProTM and GSI AMTAS FlexTM. AMTAS Pro is a software system integrated with a GSI audiometer (the AudioStar Pro or Pello) that can capture pure tone thresholds (masked AC and BC) as well as forced-choice speech results (masked SRT and WRS). AMTAS Pro utilizes DD450 circumaural headphones and forehead bone placement, so the patient is set up one time for the whole evaluation. AMTAS Flex is a tablet-based software that can obtain (masked) AC thresholds or a simple four-frequency screening audiometry test using calibrated circumaural headphones.
The AMTAS system does not require an audiologist onsite if a properly trained staff is present to assist the patient. The AMTAS teleaudiology solution reduces the time audiologists spend on basic audiometric evaluations, allowing the audiologist to be more effective and efficient in the clinic.
For more information, check out the GSI Teleaudiology Guide
By leveraging the use of technicians and advanced equipment, teleaudiology improves hearing health accessibility and reduces the time audiologists spend on routine testing. This allows audiologists to increase their caseload, therefore combating the audiology crisis and increasing revenue for the hearing care practice. Implementing teleaudiology also provides your patients with outstanding hearing healthcare regardless of distance or time constraints.
For more information on this important subject, please visit our teleaudiology webpage HERE
Windmill and Freeman (2013)
Written by Susan Flynn, M.Sc.
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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