Tele-fitting of hearing aids

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With over 360 million people worldwide with disabling hearing loss, and a shortage of ear and hearing clinicians, innovative solutions are required to deliver hearing rehabilitation. The most effective method of rehabilitation is by hearing aids.

However, there are significant barriers to accessing services for diagnosis and rehabilitation of hearing loss.  In developing countries the number of audiologists is extremely low. In developed countries many people face barriers of distance and mobility. For example, people in rural and remote areas need to travel long distance to services. People in fulltime work are time poor, finding it difficult to take time of work for a series of appointments. These barriers contribute to the very low uptake of hearing aids by those with hearing loss, reported to be only about 15%.

Tele-health is the use of computer and telecommunications technologies to provide health services remotely. Doctors, allied health workers and patients need not be in the same room, but communicate via a video-conferencing system. Equipment at remote sites can be controlled over an internet connection.

Ear Science is involved in a translational research project to develop and test methods for remotely managing patients with hearing aids. Hearing aids will be programmed via an internet connection. Video-conferencing software allows an audiologist and patient to communicate about setting up the hearing aids to suit their needs, and the discuss problems the patient may be having. The study aims to show that this service produce similar outcomes for people with hearing aids.

These innovations have the potential to provide hearing rehabilitation services to many people currently unable to access these services, and increase the currently low uptake of hearing aids in the community.

Investigators:

Karina Tao, Rob Eikelboom, Chris Brennan-Jones, De Wet Swanepoel.

Key publications:

Brennan-Jones CG, Taljaard DS, Brennan-Jones SEF, Bennett RJ, Swanepoel D, Eikelboom RH. Self-reported hearing loss and manual audiometry: A rural versus urban comparison. Australian Journal of Rural Health. Early online August 2015. doi: 10.1111/ajr.12227

Eikelboom RH, Swanepoel D. Tele-audiology. In: Electronic Medicine, Electronic Health, Telemedicine, Telehealth, and Mobile Health. Eds: H Eren and JG Webster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. pp539-560. 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4822-3659-0.

Eikelboom RH, Swanepoel D. Remote Diagnostic Hearing Assessment. In: Telepractice in Audiology. Eds: T Houston, E Rushbrook. Plural Publishing, San Diego, CA, USA. pp123-140; 2016. ISBN: 9781597566131

Eikelboom RH, Swanepoel DW. International survey of audiologist’s attitude towards telehealth. American Journal of Audiology. Accepted for publication May 2015.

Swanepoel D, Eikelboom RH. Future Directions for Telepractice in Audiology. In: Telepractice in Audiology. Eds: T Houston, E Rushbrook. Plural Publishing, San Diego, CA, USA. pp247-262; 2016. ISBN: 9781597566131.

Swanepoel D, Eikelboom RH, Friedland PF, Atlas MD, Hunter M. Self-reported hearing loss in Baby Boomers from the Busselton Health Study – Audiometric correspondence and predictive value. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 24(6):514-21; 2013.