Remote Support in audiology

What you should know about remote support and who can use it

Dr. Jean Anne Schnittker shares 3 possible advantages of adding remote support to your services and clears up a few misconceptions about who can benefit from the service.

When new methods in hearing healthcare become available, a question of why clinicians and clients should use them arises. If business is good, and clients are happy, why should clinicians change the way they are serving their customers?

Perhaps that explains why some hearing care professionals haven’t introduced remote sessions into their clinical practice. They believe that their clients are happy with the status quo.

But are they? Research tells us that:

  • 86% of end-users prefer remote sessions under certain conditions (mobility issues, transportation difficulties).1
  • 60% of end-users would prefer a remote session over face-to-face sessions.1

Since many end-users prefer remote sessions, perhaps the lack of uptake is because audiologists don’t know about its advantages, and also maybe have misconceptions about who is best suited for this type of service.

Let’s start with the advantages.

Possible advantages of adding remote support to your services

  1. Hearing aid fittings could improve

    Research shows current hearing aid fitting can be improved. Bennett and colleagues2 conducted a study and surveyed end-users to investigate the prevalence of problems related to their device.

    – participants self-reported approximately 10 hearing aid problems (and 98% reported at least 1 problem).2
    – 54% of participants responded they did not report these problems to their provider.2

    It was outside of the scope of the study to determine the reason these problems went unreported, but it shows that current fittings do have room for improvement and remote sessions may provide more opportunities for feedback.

    Furthermore, the subjects who reported a greater number of issues had lower satisfaction and benefit scores on the International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids (IOI-HA), a seven-item questionnaire designed to be generally applicable in evaluating the effectiveness of hearing aid treatments.

    It remains an open question if tele-audiology tools, such as Phonak Remote Support, could solve these unreported issues, but certainly there is potential.

  2. It is a preferred option for many digital-loving teens

    Young adults and teenagers are digital natives and are perfectly poised to adopt remote sessions.

    Venkatesan and Carr3 explored using a remote fitting prototype (that later became known as Remote Support) with disengaged teenagers. They found that technology can be an attractive option for this age group because it gives adolescents more autonomy when seeking hearing aid services.

    When the study participants were asked to rate the statement, “I would rather have my audiologist appointment in this way than travel to see my audiologist in the clinic,” 82% selected “strongly agree”.

    It was also encouraging that the teens attended the remote fitting appointments despite a history of no-shows or cancellations to in-clinic appointments.

  3. Remote sessions promote family engagement

    Virtual appointments can fill a gap that some families experience; Mom, Dad, or other primary caregivers may not be able to miss work to attend appointments together, resulting in information and instruction about the hearing aids falling through the cracks.

    Muñoz and colleagues4 reported an increase in daily wear time by using remote appointments to read datalogging and address specific needs.

    Remote support enabled the audiologists to include caregivers in the appointments at a time that was convenient for them. I can think back to many families on my caseload who would have greatly benefitted from this service.

Candidacy – consider all ages, and the non-tech savvy

When it comes to candidacy, there are a few misconceptions. One is that remote sessions are only for young people. The other is that your client has to be tech-savvy to use it. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Remote support can be offered to all ages

    Remote support, and other tele-audiology services, will become common place in the future and we are in the first part of that transition now.

    For many of your older clients (perhaps with some help from family or friends), remote sessions could help overcome mobility and/or transportation issues to give them access to audiological care.

    That is not to say that remote appointments are right for every client; but it is something you should not rule out simply due to someone’s age. It is best to look at their needs to determine if they are a good candidate. Age is only a number.
  • Tech savvy or not, clients who are motivated find a way

    When motivated, clients who are not tech-savvy still find ways to use technology. If they have challenges operating the technology alone, they can ask someone to assist them.

    In an internal Sonova study, there was one subject who had the help of his grandson. He connected his grandfather’s hearing aids to a smartphone and helped him through the virtual appointment. This was a great solution, and an example that those who are not tech-savvy can often have a friend or family member assist with getting started.

Guidelines and checklists available

If determining client candidacy for remote support or other tele-audiology tools are holding you back from offering virtual visits, guidelines and checklists are available to assist in the selection process.

These tools can help clinicians to determine which clients are best suited to tele-audiology services. Below are some links to some examples of existing guidance and candidacy documents.

To learn Phonak Remote Support digital tools, we invite you to visit our overview page.


References

  1. Angley, G. P., Schnittker, J. A., & Tharpe, A. M. (2017). Remote Hearing Aid Support: The Next Frontier. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 28(10), 893–900. https://doi.org/10.3766/jaaa.16093
  • Bennett, R. J., Kosovich, E. M., Stegeman, I., Ebrahimi-Madiseh, A., Tegg-Quinn, S., & Eikelboom, R. H. (2020). Investigating the prevalence and impact of device-related problems associated with hearing aid use. International Journal of Audiology, 59(8), 615–623. https://doi.org/10.1080/14992027.2020.1731615
  • Venkatesan, A., & Carr, G. (2019). Could teleaudiology be the answer for teens? Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from www.phonak.com/evidence, accessed on July 29, 2022.
  • Muñoz, K. Kibbe, K., Preston, E., Caballero, A., Nelson, L., White, K. & Twohig, M. (2017). Paediatric hearing aid management: a demonstration project for using virtual visits to enhance parent support, International Journal of Audiology, 56:2, 77-84.
  • Glista, D., O’Hagan, R., DiFabio, D., Moodie, S. T., Muñoz, K., Joseph, K., Brown, C. L., Curca, I., Meston, C., Richert, F., Bagatto, M., & Pfingstgraef, D. (2021). Virtual Hearing Aid Care – Clinical Practice Guidance Document. Semantic Scholar. https://doi.org/10.5206/0820211097

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