I believe that a hearing aid fitting should be personal, as each patient has a unique background and auditory preferences. But it seems that some people want to cut us out of that process for something faster or cheaper. Do you know of any advancements or products from the hearing aid industry that can help my patients understand that our roles, together, are equally important to their hearing success?
Well, personalization is something that consumers want - and expect. It is a focus in many industries right now, particularly in health care. Hearing care should be no different. When you think about how a person hears, everything about that is extremely personal to that individual, from who they are communicating with, to their listening preferences, to how their perceptual system works, to the environments they’re in. We recognize that personalization has become the new reality for us. We know that the audiogram is an important starting point, but we’ve now gone beyond the audiogram and designed a solution that can be personalized to each person’s specific listening preferences, as well as to the sound situations that they’re in on a daily basis.
You’re right; one of the things that we’re seeing in our industry is how some consumers are going online and bypassing the hearing care professional. With Oticon Alta, the hearing care professional becomes an integral part of the personalization process. When we refer to the personalization of Alta, we’re referring to the fitting process, from the initial fitting session, through the evaluation of the patient’s experience with Alta, and then optimizing the solution to the patient’s needs. Alta allows patients to express their experience of sound and enables practitioners to adjust Alta’s performance and sound quality accordingly, creating the foundation for a new level of patient satisfaction.
We outline Alta’s personalization process using three steps: the initial fitting, active listening and optimizing.
The initial fitting session is an interactive session with the hearing care professional and the client, in which the practitioner has an opportunity to specify a lot of personalized information about the client. This includes all of their audiometric information, the types of experiences they’ve had, if they’ve worn hearing instruments before, how much experience that they’ve had, and that type of information.
The active listening session is where we capture patients’ experience with different sound environments while wearing the instruments in their everyday routines. We have two ways to capture that information. One is using the Alta Diary, which is a written, take-home tool that patients use to take notes on their listening experiences with their instruments. The second way is using an app to record feedback right on the spot. The app can be downloaded from the app store, and can be used with iPhone, iPad, or an Android phone. For example, if patients are in a restaurant, at a soccer game or playing bridge, and they’re either having difficulty or having a positive experience, they can make note of that right away. What’s really cool about this is that they can then e-mail the information to the professional in advance of the follow-up session. Hearing care professionals now have a lot of information about how patients are doing while they’re out wearing their new devices, so they are prepared when the patient returns for the follow-up visit.
The professional then has a tool called YouMatic which is the control system of Alta, so to speak. It’s part of the Genie Fitting Software. It ties together the personal preferences of the patient and all of the automatic systems that are within the device. YouMatic gives patients a way to be more proactive in the process. Traditionally our counseling sessions may involve the patient reporting, “This didn’t go well,” or, “I had trouble in this specific situation.” YouMatic shifts the discussion to a much more positive and proactive standpoint, such as, “What are you hearing? What are you not hearing?” and “What are some things that you would rather not hear?” The feedback from the patient drives YouMatic’s real-time adjustment of how the instrument is going to respond to compression changes, noise management settings, directionality, and other features -- all through the Genie fitting software. In the end, Genie creates a unique profile for patients based on their audiogram, the personal information you’ve entered, as well as the patients’ sound preferences based on results of their listening to different sound samples.
While Alta is by far the best instrument Oticon has ever designed, it’s what the hearing care professional brings to it that is going to ultimately result in the best solution for the patient.
Editor’s Note: This Ask the Expert was taken from an Interview with Sheena Oliver. Access the complete interview here.