Making Hearing Aid Care Accessible For All

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Having an audiologist come to your home is one way to make hearing care more accessible..

This is a guest post from Dr. Joan Chesick, Au.D. Her private practice struck me as unique because she will go to her patients - a doctor making house calls! She offers complete instruction on how to use and care for hearing aids, sets up assistive listening devices and assists with aural rehabilitation. It is an amazing service and a model that will surely become a high demand in the future.  --MK

These are exciting times for hearing aid wearers as the technology gets better and better every year.  The latest technology will allow us to operate our hearing aids with our own smartphones and give us greater flexibility in adjustment.  Telehealth - in this case - audiology is becoming a reality as well.  If your hearing aid is dead, you may be able to access troubleshooting help with your hearing aid professional through Skype or FaceTime on your computer rather than driving to their office.  I have had patients take a picture of their hearing aid with their smartphone and e-mail or text it to me with their questions.  But what if you don’t have internet access or a smartphone?  Many hearing aid professionals are more than happy to come to retirement communities, senior centers, and nursing homes to check and clean hearing aids and answer your questions. 

 Here’s a comment I kept hearing from my patients—“I can hear and understand great in your office, but I go home and can’t hear my television or at family dinners”.

   It inspired me to start a business called Homegrown Hearing and offer home care.   If you can’t hear your telephone or television, it helps to know what make and model you have and where it is located to either fine tune your hearing aids or look for alternative assistive listening devices.  What are the acoustics in your dining room and does the lighting help or hinder your ability to read lips?

 

 I spend a lot of time counseling family members about their responsibilities in communicating with a hearing-impaired family member and the limitations of hearing aids in hearing speech at a distance.   I love teaching grandchildren and great grandchildren about hearing aids, and how to talk to be heard by hearing impaired family members.   It is so helpful when your entire family knows basic hearing aid troubleshooting, how to change your batteries or what each of your listening programs do.  Home based hearing aid care is truly appreciated by people who don’t have a car or no longer drive, or are recuperating from a surgery or illness.  Many people just don’t want to drive in poor weather or go to a medical office during flu and cold season. 

Because you hear with your ears but listen with your brain, I am a big believer in brain training.  LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement) computer based interactive program is designed specifically for the hearing impaired to improve your ear-to-brain muscle memory.

  Just as physical therapy can help rebuild physical strength and compensate for weakness, LACE can assist in developing listening, communication, and interaction skills, and research supports their claim of improving your speech understanding in noise.  Go to www.neurotone.com for more information on this program.  Many offices include this DVD or software with your purchase of new hearing instruments.  If you don’t have a computer at home, you may be able to access the program in the office of your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. 

There are limitations to home based hearing aid care.  I cannot do a diagnostic audiological evaluation in your home without a sound booth, which isn’t easily portable.  Health insurance does not pay for home-based hearing aid services or rehabilitation.   However, there are an increasing number of insurance companies offering at least partial reimbursement for hearing aids compared to five years ago.  Let’s hope the trend continues in 2015 and includes home health visits for hearing aid care.

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