Audiologist Emma Scanlan tells how tele-audiology works and whether this is the future of hearing support for older Australians.
Welcome along folks, it's YourLifeChoices’ podcast Mind Your Own Retirement with me John Deeks and the founder of YourLifeChoices Kaye Fallick. We’re here with Emma Scanlan from Hearing Australia.
John Deeks: I've got a problem.
Emma Scanlan: Have you?
Kaye Fallick: Oh dear, you needed that didn't you Emma?
JD: Emma, I've got a very dear friend of mine who clearly has a hearing problem, who has the television up far too loud, and who yells a lot, and says ‘aye?’. How do I convince that person to get their hearing checked?
ES: You just pinpointed two of the absolute classic signs of hearing loss. TV up very loud and someone’s voice very loud. Look, I think you need to approach it very sensitively. There's a lot of things – a lot feelings that people have around hearing loss, but it's so important to do something about it because there's so many things that people can do. And the beauty now is that people can just get a hearing check in the comfort and privacy of their own home if they choose to.
JD: How does that work?
ES: Well one place that they can go is to our website, hearing.com.au. It takes about 10 minutes, there's a few really simple questions, and then a bit of a hearing test in noise. And what it does is it gives people a really good idea of whether they need to go on and have further testing, or whether things look like they are okay now. There’s also some useful information on there about tips and tricks and strategies people can use to help themselves with their hearing. But the best thing to do is to get a really good check and know exactly where you are and then talk to your audiologist or clinician and make some good decisions for the future.
KF: So Emma, we’re talking about tele-audiology, does that extend beyond the initial hearing check?
ES: It definitely does. The recent period has just been incredible in terms of shaping our service delivery, and also people’s use of different types of technology. So when we say tele-audiology, we just mean the use of telecommunications and digital technology to deliver services – clinical services in our case – for clients who are in the same location as the clinician.
So during this period people have been either unwilling or unable to come in to the hearing centres for services. It’s meant this really deep learning curve on both sides to get us delivering these services in a really safe way, and helping people to still be able to access what have been labelled essential services by the government during a difficult period where they may not want to put their own safety at risk. And also the safety of our staff is really important as well.
So we've been offering people a whole range of alternatives. Whenever someone has an appointment we’ve rung them a day before and said look there's a range of things you can do. You can still come in for your appointment but we will obviously need to meet the social distancing requirements and we can explain to them what that is, or we can do your appointment by telephone or we can do it by some form of video conferencing like skype, zoom, or facetime or whatever suits that person.
KF: So what has been the most popular?
ES: The most popular has actually been to come in for a face to face appointment, particularly initially. It’s been really interesting because I think partly people did not have a lot of other activities that they are involved in at that time, and people really prioritise their hearing.
It's quite amazing to us, we thought a lot of our clients have a lot of risk factors or are in an age group that's more at risk, or their health puts them more at risk. So we’ve actually expected very low numbers of people who would actually want to come in for services, but a lot of people still did and that was absolutely fine.
There were a whole lot of other people who chose to either have their appointment by phone or by video conferencing and that often involved us doing quite extensive discussions with them about how the video conferencing might work. So for a lot of people it was the absolute first time that they have ever used that technology or seen the benefits of that technology, and we’ve had so many clients say look after my appointment, because we can talk a little bit about what client resources we have, and what hardware and software are needed. But once I have done that people say look I have used this now with my family and friends.
KF: So, it's fair to say that the future has come forward and do you see zoom, or google hangouts, or whatever you're using, as hearing support delivery from now on?
ES: Definitely. I think people have realised how easy it is for them to use. Clients have realised it and certainly for some types of clinical activities it's perfectly appropriate. There are still a couple of things that we do need people to come in to the hearing centre for now, and that mainly revolves around particular types of hearing aids people have when they need to have an impression taken of their ear to make up the piece that fits in by the ear that allows them to use the hearing aid.
JD: Emma how would people get in touch with you to know more?
ES: They can visit our website hearing.com.au or they can call their local Hearing Australia centre.
JD: That's great, I might get on to my friend because if it requires sensitivity I'm known as Mr Sensitive. But if you do think you have an issue then certainly it's best to go to that website.
ES: Yes please do. Even if you think ‘I’m just curious’ go on to hearing.com.au do the online hearing check as I've said it's really quick simple and it will give you a really good idea of the next steps.
JD: Are you struggling to hear this podcast? Well maybe it's time we talked about your hearing, perhaps you have been putting off getting a hearing test or perhaps you are unhappy with your current hearing aid, now if that's the case you need hearing aid finder. Simply visit hearingaidfinder.com.au fill in the form, and one of the hearing specialists can set you up with a free test with an accredited audiologist. They'll take you the aids that suits your hearing needs at an affordable price so head now to hearingaidfinder.com.au or call 1300 153323 to book your appointment today.
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