During this pandemic, certain businesses or professions have been allowed to continue their work, being deemed essential services. Not surprisingly, health care falls into that category. Of course, in a pandemic of this nature and magnitude, particular health care fields may seem more essential than others.
I’ve worked in emergency medicine, and I can only imagine how challenging this time is for health care providers on the front lines of this tragedy. They deserve all the support, thanks, and blessings we can give them!
Though hearing and communication aren’t a matter of life and death, they are critical for living and our mental health. The shelter-in-place order and social distancing has placed in sharp relief the importance of being able to hear and connect with family & friends.
You see, particularly for the hearing impaired, distance can be a real killer for understanding. As sound travels, it loses energy or volume, affecting the most critical (for speech understanding) high frequency sounds foremost. So without help (amplification), one hears speech while having difficulty understanding what’s said.
Especially during this challenging period, our patients have been telling us how their hearing aids are making a tremendous difference in their lives. We hear it from them every day, relating how much they appreciate still being able to connect with their neighbors at a (safe) distance or catching up with friends while taking ‘socially distant’ walks.
Others have told us they’ve loved utilizing the amazing wireless streaming capability to send the audio signal of their Zoom or Facetime video chats directly to their hearing aids, helping them to stay connected to loved ones near and far. As health care providers, we’re so happy that we’re able to do our part to help.
However, like many health care practitioners, the necessary social distancing and ‘shelter-in-place’ order has affected our ability to care for our patients fully. Countless aspects of medical care require close proximity or physical contact with our patients, which no technology can replace.
But one technology advancement that’s been particularly helpful is ‘telehealth.’ In its basic form, telehealth harnesses digital video and audio conferencing capabilities to allow health care providers to offer some level of assistance to patients or clients remotely. That’s how my wife, who is a therapist, has been working with her clients. Today, she herself was getting body treatment remotely from her Feldenkrais practitioner.
Audiology is no different.
Though some critical aspects of good hearing healthcare require close proximity or physical contact, if needs be, many things can be done remotely. Presciently, the hearing health care industry embraced the idea of telehealth fairly early, introducing this capability in the latest generation of products and software.
Over the last several weeks, we have been utilizing this capability to stay connected to our patients-answer questions, make remote adjustments to their programming, or just showing them how to clean their hearing aids.
TeleAudiology has been especially helpful during this challenging time. But even once we’ve returned to (or approach) ‘normal’ again, we will continue utilizing it (when appropriate) to make our patients’ lives easier and better.
Folks will be able to stay in the comfort of their own home or not have to take extra time off of work. Again, no technology can replace the ‘human touch’ when it comes to medical care.
But TeleAudiology, combined with hearing aids, gives us another tool to improve our patients’ quality of life-even/especially when life’s at a distance.