Wireless hearing aid accessories have long been thought of as an ‘add-on’ — something additional that patients need to improve their hearing performance in challenging environments. Before the introduction of MFA, MFI and Bluetooth®-streaming capabilities, accessories were also used to overcome everyday actions, like streaming phone calls or TV.
However, in today’s world, many hearing aid accessories might seem ‘outdated’ and ‘not necessary’ as the functions they perform are now handled by many of today’s wireless hearing aids. This might be true for some accessories but what about those that help overcome distance and noise?
With the COVID-19 pandemic and now the practice of wearing masks and social distancing, communication is becoming more difficult for your patients. It is time to seriously rethink how we view hearing aid accessories, specifically wireless technology that improves speech understanding.
Wireless hearing accessories over the years
Even when wearing hearing aids, hearing aid wearers report listening challenges in background noise1 and over distance2. Phonak has the answer to exactly that complaint: Roger technology. Roger technology is the gold standard for overcoming distance and noise in even the most challenging environments, with numerous studies demonstrating its performance and benefit.2,3 Roger is easy to use and directly integrated into the hearing aids with RogerDirect and Phonak Marvel™ technology. So why aren’t more patients using Roger?
History suggests that many wireless hearing aid accessories, including Roger, are viewed as additional, non-essential products when it comes to a hearing aid fitting. Often it is not until patients report continued difficulty in noise and over distance that Roger is considered – at which point they’re frustrated and perhaps even disappointed in the performance they’ve experienced.
This puts the hearing care provider (HCP) in a notoriously uncomfortable position of educating patients that they have the best of the best hearing aid technology, yet they still need something else to overcome those challenges, and that means more money, more technology and more counseling.
Positioning Roger in the clinic
Regardless of the benefit it provides, Roger technology is often one of the more challenging accessories for HCPs to position. Among the challenges, Roger is more expensive than other wireless accessories, and until the introduction of RogerDirect, it was also challenging for those HCPs who did not use it often to feel comfortable and confident in knowing which receiver they needed, which microphones were compatible, etc. This barrier often led to the decision not to offer Roger in the clinic and work toward other ways to overcome the patient’s challenges in noise and over distance.
At the end of the day, patients were either fit with a wireless accessory that might or might not provide the additional benefit they needed in those challenging environments or they went without and learned to ‘live with it’. However, in today’s current landscape, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a patient to ‘live with it’ and compensate to try to overcome the new normal of social distancing, face coverings and telemedicine.
COVID, social distancing & Roger technology
THE COVID-19 pandemic forced our traditional methods of communication to change seemingly overnight. It left those wearing hearing aids at a disadvantage, requiring them to work even harder to communicate. Suddenly, patients found themselves struggling to hear while practicing social distancing and holding a conversation with someone wearing a mask – all to remain safe.
Patients who rarely struggled before found themselves experiencing a whole new challenge. HCPs found themselves managing a sudden increase in patients reaching out to them in hopes of finding a solution to help them overcome these new communication challenges. Turning to the additional technology they offered, many HCPs recognized the opportunity that Roger technology presented.
Roger technology, its functionality and benefit introduce a new opportunity for both HCPs and their patients to experience better communication with one another during the COVID-19 pandemic and after, including:
- Overcoming distance. While maintaining 6 feet of social distance between one another, Roger technology offers patients ease of mind knowing that they are safe without missing out on the conversation. While using a Roger solution patients have a tool to use to overcome the distance between each other by placing Roger on the table or desk, placing it around the speaker’s neck, or even clipped to their pocket.
- Overcoming face coverings. Not only do face covers take away the visual input that many patients still rely upon when having a conversation – it also reduces the overall volume of the voice of the speaker, making it even harder to hear them at a distance.4 Roger technology, when worn around the neck or clipped to the collar, a shirt pocket or jacket, helps to not only overcome the distance from the speaker, but also the reduction in volume due to their mask. Using Roger in this way helps patients and gives them a boost in the ability to hear while remaining safe. Please note that for some listeners, there might be a slight change in perceived sound quality as a result of the high-frequency attenuation of the face mask. This will depend on several factors including the type of mask worn, the position of the mask, and the speaker’s voice.
- Avoiding cross contamination. Roger technology is versatile and flexible. For patients concerned about contamination when handing their Roger microphone over for someone else to wear, don’t forget about the functionality the Roger Pen has to offer. When pointing mode is used, patients can remain in control of their Roger Pen without worrying about physically handing it to the speaker. They can feel safe at a distance, in addition to avoiding contamination from devices handed around.
Mindset change on Roger
It’s no question – Roger provides the tool and technology both HCPs and their patients need right now to remain safe while still being an active part of the conversation. Perhaps now is the time to change our perspective on Roger from simply an accessory to a solution that provides accessibility.
Communication is a lifeline – it connects us to those we love, those we share our stories with, and those that take care of us and keep us safe. Your clients deserve access. Our confidence in our ability to communicate directly impacts our social, emotional and physical well-being. And, let’s face it, the ‘new normal’ of interaction and communication may last for a long while. Now is the time to shift our perspectives on the technology and solutions our patients need from us.
To learn more about Phonak Roger solutions, click here to visit our website.
1 Abrams, H. & Kihm, J. (2015). An introduction to MarkeTrak IX—A new baseline for the hearing aid market. Hearing Review; 22: 16.
2 Selesho, E., & Zwarts, G. (2016). Improved speech recognition in meetings with the Roger Table Mic™. Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from http://FSN_Roger_improved_speech_recognition_210x297_GB_V1.00.pdf
3 Thibodeau, L. (2014). Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM wireless technology by listeners who use hearing aids. American Journal of Audiology; 23(6): 201-210.
4 Goldin A., Weinstein, B.E., & Shiman, N. (2020). How do medical masks degrade speech perception? Hearing Review; 27(5):8-9.