Audiology telehealth: Helping rural Veterans access hearing evaluations


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Hearing loss is one of the top issues that frequently affects Veterans nationwide, but, until recently, many Veterans living in rural areas have had challenges in receiving needed hearing care. Effective hearing care includes careful evaluation, a range of appropriate interventions, and the provision of the best technology available to help them.

To address this, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is proactively using the latest in telehealth technology to reach rural Veterans.

“Expanded use of innovative technology is increasing access points to hearing care in remote areas, enabling telehealth providers to expand their reach to patients and their families in satisfying and effective ways,” said Chad Gladden, audiology telehealth coordinator for the Audiology and Speech Pathology National Program Office.

Audiology Store and Forward Telehealth (SFT) modality now being implemented through a pilot program in targeted areas includes automated audiometric test results and captured images that are compiled by trained personnel at remote sites and then sent to audiologists at VA Medical Centers for analysis.

The original sites for the Audiology SFT pilot program were medical centers in Nashville, TN; Bay Pines, FL; Topeka, KS, and San Francisco, CA. An estimated 400 Veterans have now been tested through this pilot.

The test results evaluated by audiologists determine the level and type of hearing loss and treatment, need for further evaluation, and/or recommended follow up. Education of the Veteran patient-family is always included in the treatment plan.

At selected points in the patient visit, highly trained technicians using the proper equipment can provide important patient information to an audiologist from a remote site. The technology can capture images of the ear drum, ear canal, and external ear–information that is required in an audiogram. The information and images are stored in a pdf file which is uploaded into the Electronic Health Record (EHR) and sent to the audiologist for analysis at a designated clinic.

The success of the program is now motivating other staff in new locations to consider SFT services. Eleven (11) new facilities have requested similar hardware setups in order to expand their programs, with continued expansion planned in FY 2020. Additional telehealth services include hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings and follow-up, auditory rehabilitation, and tinnitus management classes.

The Audiology and Speech Pathology National Program Office is committed to working with manufacturers, clinicians, administrative and support staff, patients, and diverse stakeholders in identifying and testing innovative technology to make “better speech and hearing” more than a hope, but a reality for thousands of Veterans. Despite the financial, infrastructure, and human resources required to navigate the complex processes of planning, providing, and evaluating hearing telehealth technologies, this investment by VA is worth the effort.

“Ask any Veteran who is given the ability to hear better, and they will tell you it enables them to enjoy life more fully,” Gladden said.


Chad Gladden is an audiology telehealth coordinator for the Audiology and Speech Pathology National Program Office.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Imprimir Libro    

    Awesome article, this texe it’s beautiful
    “Expanded use of innovative technology is increasing access points to hearing care in remote areas, enabling telehealth providers to expand their reach to patients and their families in satisfying and effective ways,”

  2. Albert R Moreno    

    I was told that I would be contacted for an appointment for audiology. I am still waiting. That has been forever. I really need to have somebody look at my hearing aids. Thanks

    1. Jim Davenport    

      Call the radiology dept at your local va. What va is closest to you?

  3. Gordon Daly, Sr    

    Reading with interest. Now let me ask you why I can’t get my service connected treatment meds from the VA while on travel. I have contacted to VA treatment centers I have utilized for years in NH. . Both said GO Back to Pensacola, VA they have your records now. No amount of explaining that I’m out of needed meds did me any good. I was told such B-S as, our computers are old and unable to get into your records. Call your assigned VA Doctor, he can help (I can’t get his Nurse to call me back, let alone get to my Doctor. My VA card, Veterans Choice card etc, no help at all.

    If you really want to help a veteran, make it simpler for him to get necessary med-refills while away from his home of record.
    .
    Thank You.

    Gordon Daly, Sr

  4. ennis e richard    

    i have two sets of hearing aids and i can say they are fine little aids but it isn’t fixing my problem. i have a real problem listening to two people at the same time, i can hear them but i can not desifer what they are saying! high frequency is a real problem and tinutes is awful. i just dont hear very well and my family and friends are tired of saying the same over and over to make me understand

  5. James Dickason    

    Telehealth program is very difficult to navigate (read fcking impossible) It requires you to sign up for Gmail and another internet provider. If you like receiving an extra 40 to 50 emails advertising virtually everything then go for it. Transmission quality outside of major urban areas is shit. You also are required to listen to several videos advertising more crap. Save your self some time and frustration…AVOID THIS PROGRAM

  6. Robert F Petersen    

    Having trouble with the VA scheduling my Brain evaluation appointment for the VA. It is suppose to be at the hospital at Mashias Maine. Please help.

  7. Dennis Russell    

    I have asked for an appointment with a dermatologist that might come to Glasgow MT from the Billings Clinic in Billings MT. One comes to Glasgow but I cannot find out if they are VA providers,\. Also I am Having trouble with my hearing aid and have requested a test. No action.

  8. Lynn Folgate    

    Lynn Folgate July 6, 2019 at 3:36 pm Reply
    Yeah, hearing is still a problem but in my case, the problem is partly due to the speakers. Many times speakers start talking before they enter the room I am in. Or, they talk softer than the TV or softer than the garage door noise that is in the back ground. When other noise is present, for me I need the speaker to talk louder than the other noise or all I can hear is the other noise! I have for over a year now used the phrase, “Wait, I am in a distant room.” But, the speaker has yet to realize that maybe they should wait until they are in the same room with me before they start to speak! On the few occasions I tried to explain this, it is met with hostility and anger. Therefore, it might help if this situation were explained.
    In conclusion, my perception is that there are two forces involved here: One is the ability to hear or inability to hear and the other is the lack of both volume by the speaker. Then too, it may be that the speaker ought to first get the attention of the person spoken to before continuing to speak. Sometimes, I just miss the first two or three words and from then on the statements just don’t make sense! Here too, I often say, “I missed the fist few words” and still met with hostility and accused of: “not listening”!
    Thus, it would be a good idea to stress the importance of speaking louder than other sounds and to enunciate clearly.

  9. Lynn Folgate    

    Yeah, hearing is still a problem but in my case, the problem is partly due to the speakers. Many times speakers start talking before they enter the room I am in. Or, they talk softer than the TV or softer than the garage door noise that is in the back ground. When other noise is present, for me I need the speaker to talk louder than the other noise or all I can hear is the other noise! I have for over a year now used the phrase, “Wait, I am in a distant room.” But, the speaker has yet to realize that maybe they should wait until they are in the same room with me before they start to speak! On the few occasions I tried to explain this, it is met with hostility and anger. Therefore, it might help if this situation were explained.
    In conclusion, my perception is that there are two forces involved here: One is the ability to hear or inability to hear and the other is the lack of both volume by the speaker. Then too, it may be that the speaker ought to first get the attention of the person spoken to before continuing to speak. Sometimes, I just miss the first two or three words and from then on the statements just don’t make sense! Here too, I often say, “I missed the fist few words” and still met with hostility and accused of: “not listening”!
    Thus, it would be a good idea to stress the importance of speaking louder than other sounds and to enunciate clearly.

  10. WALTER F. FINAN    

    iTS GREAT TO FIND OUT THESE OPTIONS FOR US VETERANS. I KNOW BECAUSE i NEED TO GET ANOTHER HEARING TEST. WALTER FINAN

  11. Rex Eberly    

    I am an audio telehealth participant. The system works great “except” the turn around time for repairs and/or replacement is terrible. My last visit has me waiting 20 working days for replacements. Previously waited over a month for replacement part.

  12. Hubert Nicholson    

    The VA sent me to have a hearing exam in 2018 before getting my disability, they have not let me know the outcome and Ahlberg Audiology in Cleveland, Tn. said they could not give me the results I tried to locate them on several VA websites to no avail. I have tendinitis and hearing problems and have had, beginning in 1974. I should be receiving 100% disability, but only receiving 70% for other reasons.
    Hubert Nicholson

    1. Hubert Nicholson    

      The VA sent me to have a hearing exam in 2018 before getting my disability, they have not let me know the outcome and Ahlberg Audiology in Cleveland, Tn. said they could not give me the results I tried to locate them on several VA websites to no avail. I have tendinitis and hearing problems and have had, beginning in 1974. I should be receiving 100% disability, but only receiving 70% for other reasons.
      Hubert Nicholson

      1. Jim Davenport    

        Contact your county veteran service officer, let them do the work for you

  13. Joseph l. Frank    

    I have been a recipient of audiology help from the VA for the past five years. This help was received in Jacksonville Florida and I received my first pair of hearing aids March 2014. After four years they decided I needed a new pair which was furnished In June of 2018. I was advised at that time if the hearing aids did not perform we had six months to return them. During their six month period I moved to Alabama and contacted the audiology deparment in Huntsville about my problem and completed the paper work which was sent to me, this was September 2018. As of this date no one has contacted me. Of course the return period has long since expired. Any help would be appreciated.

  14. Tanya K. Larson    

    My husband and I are both vets. Over a month ago, his titanium frames broke, and he has been without glasses since. The VA has a contract with Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center, and he was authorized to have an eye exam there, but was specifically told he had to come into Phoenix to pick out frames an get fitted. (167 miles away!) Since it was a possibility that optometry wouldn’t be able to see him that day, he was offered to be put up in a hotel at the VA’s expense. BUT THEY REFUSED TO PAY TRAVEL PAY. What’s s wrong with that picture? Now by the time he gets a new pair of glasses, it will have been a 6 WEEK WAIT for him. Lots of hugs in the Mission act.

  15. Bruce R. Russell    

    That technology looks great!!!! I wish the VA would help to do something for my hearing. I am a retired Naval aviator with 6 flying tours and more than 6000 flight hours. I know that I have hearing loss and loud tinnitus, yet the VA denied my request for help.

    “Ask any Veteran who is given the ability to hear better, and they will tell you it enables them to enjoy life more fully,” Gladden said. ….. I sure would love to be able to hear better and not having to ask my wife to constantly repeat herself!

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