The term tele-audiology was first coined by Dr. Greg Givens when he was developing a system at East Carolina University in 1999. One year later, Dr. Givens performed the first internet audiological exam. Several years later in 2009, Dr. James Hall conducted the first transatlantic test when he tested a patient in South Africa from the AAA conference in Dallas.
Since then, there have been major advancements made in tele-audiology. Entire systems have been developed to help clinics start and effectively manage a successful tele-hearing program, such as the Interacoustics RAS, MedRx telehealth solutions, and GSI AMTAS. In fact, it’s never been easier and more cost-effective to launch a tele-audiology program.
Here are some key hearing care services that can be performed remotely with tele-audiology.
Granted you have a PC-enabled digital video otoscope and an assistant who knows how to use it, you can easily perform remote video otoscopy on patients. Essentially, the patient would go to your remote clinic where you have the personnel and equipment needed for the examination. The otoscopy would be performed and the results would be securely sent to you to review via an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant connection.
With a PC-enabled screening audiometer, you can easily perform hearing screenings via tele-audiology. Better yet, there are self-evaluation tools, such as GSI AMTAS, that allow the patient to screen themselves without the help of an audiologist or audiology assistant. Audiologists at Minot St. University in North Dakota have successfully performed an audiometric evaluation via tele-audiology.
Tympanometry, ABR, and OAE
Unfortunately, there are no self-tests for tympanometry, ABR, and OAE, but if you have the equipment and staff resources at your remote location, you can perform each type of test remotely. Best of all, you can video conference in and ensure everything is in proper order for the assessment so you know the results will be accurate once you receive them via a secure connection. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH has successfully performed pediatric evaluations with pure-tone tympanometry and OAE.
Hearing Aid Fitting
Although it might be complicated, it is possible to perform hearing aid fitting, programming, orientation, troubleshooting, and verification with tele-audiology. As with OAE, ABR, and tympanometry, there needs to be staff present to perform the measurements. Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has successfully performed hearing aid fittings using tele-audiology.
The advent of video conferencing has opened the doors to remote patient counseling. Provided that the teleconferencing software being used is secure and HIPAA-compliant, a hearing care professional can easily conduct a counseling session with a patient remotely. The AAA Taskforce on Telehealth and Tele-Audiology, led by Dr. Mark Krumm, successfully conducted live videoconferencing with patients.
In the end, tele-audiology can help extend your geographic reach, save costs on travel, reduce other overhead costs, and much more, all without sacrificing the integrity of treatment and results. The initial equipment costs and training requirements will seem daunting at first, but in the long run, they will be well worth it.
If you’re still on the fence about tele-audiology because you’re unsure about its capabilities, rest assured that you can still perform a thorough hearing evaluation and much more with this service delivery method. For more information on tele-audiology and the equipment that makes it possible, get in touch with your local e3 office today!
About the Author
Adam is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at e3 Diagnostics. His interest in hearing healthcare is driven by his passion for music because he feels everyone should be able to clearly listen to Pet Sounds at least once in their life. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, digging through record stores for classic vinyl, shooting hoops, and writing stories.