Hearing care during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

Protecting our patients and staying connected with them is important during these difficult times. What can we do as hearing healthcare practitioners?

While the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic begins to spread throughout the world, hearing healthcare practitioners are concerned about how to treat hearing loss and protect our patients from exposure. We no doubt often work with a geriatric population that are at risk of serious health conditions from this viral outbreak. Here are some tips to protecting yourself and your patients from COVID-19:

  1. Follow the CDC guidelines for prevention and protect yourself first! Wash your hands often, avoid close contact with those that are sick, stay home if you are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, wear a face mask if you are sick, and clean and disinfect. The CDC has released further guidelines regarding clinical care of patients during this time.
  2. Clean and disinfect all surfaces in the clinic often. Household bleach solutions, 70%+ alcohol solutions, and other EPA-approved household disinfectants have been shown to be effective.
  3. If patients are coming into your shop, clinic or hospital to access services, try to move them into fitting and testing rooms as quickly as possible. This is always a great business-focused recommendation, but even more now, where social isolation is critical in preventing the further spread of the virus, getting your patients into their own spaces with less likelihood of contact is best.
  4. Now is as good a time as any to finally use telehealth features for hearing instrument adjustments. Many of the leading manufacturers of hearing instruments have built-in telehealth features in their devices/apps that are made for smartphones. Resistance to these features from clinicians has been strong historically. It is time we practice with and use those telehealth features for fine tuning adjustments that our patients need. High-risk patients are encouraged to avoid environments where contact is likely. This feature can help to keep our high-risk patients safe at home while still being able to make adjustments to their devices that can increase their quality of life.
  5. Keep in mind that social isolation that leads to depression is often exacerbated by hearing loss. To support your patients during this challenging time, check in with them. It is likely that our clinic loads are going to be significantly less considering our patients’ fear of exposure to the disease. Encourage your staff to touch base with your patients during this time to monitor their well-being. This can have wide-ranging benefits to you and your patient.

We have the opportunity to have an amazing impact on our patients’ lives during this very difficult time and can do so while reducing risk of exposure to coronavirus. Let’s tighten up our processes and protocols on universal precautions in our offices, use readily available technology solutions to offer care in a low-risk environment, and stay connected to our high-risk patients at a time when symptoms of isolation will be exacerbated. Take this time to make small changes in your clinics to make a great impact for the long-term future of hearing healthcare.

Let me know what your office is doing to protect your patients and stay connected with them during this difficult time. Please share your stories in the comment section below!

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