June 2020 Australian Hearing Hub
Hearing Australia’s national network of over 160 hearing centres has remained open over the past two months, helping some 10,000 children, adults, pensioners and veterans each week. Kim Terrell, Managing Director of Hearing Australia, says that now, more than ever, good hearing health is essential for communication, learning and working during these difficult times. “We know how important hearing is to the health and welfare of our clients, and how much they value being able to get help from us anywhere across Australia. We’ve listened to our clients and have made it even easier for clients to get the information and support they need whilst still maintaining a very high standard of infection control. The results have been impressive with a large percentage of our appointments now occurring on the phone or video in the comfort of a client’s home, which many are telling us is also more convenient and reassuringly delivering the same great outcomes as coming into a centre. We have also stayed focused on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients in regional and remote Australia, working closely with communities to help them while in isolation,” says Kim.
According to Dr Brent Edwards, Director of National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research division of Hearing Australia; the organisation has been ahead of the curve, having added tele-health (or Connected Health) to its strategic priorities two years ago. “NAL’s research findings in this area have helped hearing health care practitioners world-wide understand the challenges and benefits of remote audiology solutions. We’ve increased our research efforts into Connected Health given the current crisis and need for remote hearing services by those with hearing loss. Our research findings provide the reassurance to clinicians and clients that the quality of health care is not compromised by using remote care solutions,” says Brent.
Emma Scanlan, Principal Audiologist with Hearing Australia, explains how easy it is to get help.
“Anyone who is worried about their hearing or the hearing of a loved one should visit our website or ring us to make an appointment. We are open and here to help. Hearing Australia has quickly adapted our service to be able to assist clients remotely, wherever possible. We are delighted to see that the remote support is delivering the same results as face-to-face appointments,” explains Emma. “When it is necessary for clients to come into a centre, we’ve taken every precaution to make sure our clients and staff are safe. We’ve shortened all appointments and our centre staff ensure less waiting time for clients attending a consultation in person, in addition to ensuring the strictest hygiene and social distancing processes are in place.”
The dramatic increase in tele-audiology services are a ‘lifeline’ for Hearing Australia clients like sixty-eight-year-old Christopher Rawlins. According to Christopher, his life would be much harder during self-isolation if he didn’t have the support from Hearing Australia to maintain his hearing.
“I was impressed with the way in which my local Hearing Australia centre had programmed my hearing aid remotely in line with my latest hearing test results. I was self-isolating when COVID-19 hit and my audiologist was there to help at every step along the way, online and on the phone. So, all I needed to do was arrive and collect my hearing aid without having an appointment,” says Christopher. “I don’t feel cut off from society now! I’m back talking to my daughter and grandkids on FaceTime, I can also enjoy listening to music and keep up to date with the latest news,” adds Christopher.
Kim adds that, “Hearing is critical to keeping pace with the ‘new normal’ of communicating and interacting via phone and video for education, work and socialising with loved ones. For older Australians, we’re committed to making getting hearing help easier and more affordable, now more than ever. Among the clients we’ve helped in April are 55 babies who have been diagnosed with a hearing loss and fitted with hearing aids for the first time. For these, our youngest clients, this means that they are continuing to access hearing services to develop crucial speech and language skills to improve their future outcomes. We want to ensure that our over 274,000 clients around the country, ranging from babies to senior Australians, stay connected to what makes a difference in their lives,” says Kim Terrell.