How can I ensure my patients are successful with custom hearing aids?
We’ve all been there: A patient is finally ready to pursue amplification. They come into your office and let you know that they would like custom hearing aids. You go through the consultation and impression process successfully, but when it comes time to dispense the hearing aids the patient is surprised. Surprised at the size and shape, the feel of the devices in their ears, and surprised by the new sounds they’re hearing. What you see is a disappointed patient, possibly unwilling to wear and/or adapt to these new hearing aids, unwilling to try another model of device, or deflated by the experience, unwilling to continue their hearing aid journey altogether.
Why does this happen? A Sonova research study in 2021 with HCPs suggested that among patients who actively expressed an interest in custom hearing aids, 64% said it was because of the use of face masks (behind the ear hearing aids can easily get caught in the straps of the mask), while 56% said it because they are less visible/ conspicuous.1 Another Sonova study in 2020 showed a growing trend among the younger patients and smartphone users is to have hearable-like technology with Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music and connecting to their mobile phones and other devices.2 The same study also showed that CICs are highly desired for their small and discreet size as well as “good hearing performance, comfort and ease of use.2 So, while there is a demand for custom hearing instruments, there are still some challenges, and HCPs must balance enthusiasm that the patient is committed to taking a step towards better hearing and the realistic expectations that need to be set before making this commitment. This common experience among hearing care providers has been the impetus for Phonak’s development of a patient expectation checklist to support your conversations throughout the hearing aid consultation.
Phonak’s ITE Patient Expectations Checklist has been thoughtfully designed to systematically aid in your discussion regarding the benefits and common obstacles that come with fitting a custom hearing instrument. There are prompts to discuss the possibility of the occlusion effect or venting properties for those with normal low-frequency hearing. There is guidance in regards to establishing your patients’ needs, expectations, and priorities. For example, the most discreet IICs are generally not wireless and do not have Bluetooth capabilities, nor do they have directional microphones. Dexterity should be discussed with patients as custom products are smaller, require cleaning and maintenance, and battery changes. The checklist also includes the fitting ranges for different receivers, an easy-to-read summary of different ITE models and the options that come with each.
This checklist is one tool to help you and your patients along a successful custom journey. Other tools available are the EasyView Otoblock, an innovative otoblock with a transparent membrane. This otoblock fits on the end of your otoscope specula and gives you the confidence of full visualization while placing the otoblock and ensures you obtain a deep impression without any guesswork. Internal investigations concluded that using the EasyView Otoblock enables you to collect an average of 6mm additional canal length information, crucial in creating a discreet hearing aid. The Titanium Fit Guide has also been developed to provide the flexibility and dynamic tolerance of an ear canal that we cannot see in a standard ear impression alone. Taking two sets of impressions (jaw opened/jaw closed) can be time-intensive, and this tool can help inform the manufacturing process about individual ear canal characteristics, resulting in an average of 2.5mm deeper-fitting Titanium hearing aids. The use of the EasyView Otoblock and Titanium Fit Guide can help ensure deeper fitting discreet devices and reduce the need for remakes.
Setting yourself and your patients up for success is key for establishing clinic efficiencies. Questionnaires such as the Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults (HHIA) and Client Oriented Scale of Improvement (COSI) can help establish hearing needs and rehabilitation goals of your patients and their families. When a custom hearing aid is pursued, Phonak has created resources to ensure success, including the ITE Patient Expectation Checklist, EasyView Otoblock video demonstration, and Titanium Fit Guide Insight and video demonstration. The use of these tools can provide you a discussion framework, give you the confidence when taking a deep impression, and give the hearing aid lab more information about the ear canal so we can build comfortable, well-fitting devices that will provide excellent audiological benefit while meeting their expectations.
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- Leibundgut, M. (2021). Market research ID 4492. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in further information
- Bulut, K. (2020). Market research ID 4415. Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in further information