Online Hearing Aids done right

Time to Read: 15 Minutes

By Christo Fourie

Online hearing aids done wrong

Concept of important choices of a businessmanLet me start off by saying, that I really dislike hearing aids being sold online with little regard for your outcome.

Most tend to pre-program the hearing aids based on your results without ever having seen you before. There is also a newer generation of non-adjustable, non-hearing aids, posing as "hearing aids" which are nothing more than $20 amplifiers sold for "Thousands of dollars less than traditional hearing aids".

All of this just adds to the confusion and you often end up looking at price to help you make up your mind. What is worse is now that most people are rightfully fearful to leave their homes, online hearing aids may become more attractive. Unfortunately long term outcomes with these online options are likely to be poor, as it misses professional expertise to help adjust it to your unique situation and hearing ability.

What are your options?

Solutions Ahead blue road signA full professional consultation with careful hearing assessment and solution selection has been shown to deliver great outcomes when done right.

This currently requires a fair bit of face-to-face contact, which is not a safe option for some considering the COVID-19 crisis.

You could wait for it all to pass, but considering we'll be at home and may need to communicate with doctors and loved ones, as well as watch a lot more television, this option is not necessarily a great one.

Some good alternatives

We have considered how you can best be served considering the constraints brought on by the global health crisis.

Three things stood out as the most important factors to address:

  1. Cost - everyone will be hurting financially in this crisis, so costs need to be kept to a minimum
  2. Safety - considering our client base currently averages 65 years of age, and hence are at most risk, safety is of critical importance
  3. Outcome - just because there is a crisis, does not mean one can skimp on good outcomes. You are still spending money and you still need the hearing aids to be comfortable, sound good and work well.

So we've set out to create services to address all of these while still matching our company purpose and values.

COVID-19 hearing options

Our same day hearing aids option for Optimal Outcomes

Oticon_Connectivity_ON_App_iPhone_7_GAB_0074_Width200mm_300dpi_C_OticonWe have always had the ability to fit you on the same day as your assessment but never really promoted it as a "thing". However, I have been noticing suppliers promoting this to clinicians since the COVID-19 crisis, so obviously this has not been something that has been done extensively in Australia.

We are able to improve on this model further to keep the face-to-face contact to a minimum and ensure we have the correct options in stock prior to your appointment. This improves the chances of a same day fitting taking place. I have an article dedicated to this supply model here.

By adding a phone consultation with an audiologist at the front of the appointment, we can remove around 30-45 minutes of the in-person consultation. If we combine that with our online speech in noise test, we can even make sure we have the correct hearing aid ready to be fitted to you in our office and have it prepared for your arrival saving even more in-person contact time.

We can then perform follow-up visits and adjustments remotely, saving you from having to come in for fine tuning during this health crisis.

Benefits of this model:

  • Cost is slightly reduced as online follow-ups are slightly more cost effective than in clinic visits.
  • Contact time is much reduced due to moving parts of the appointment online, which results in a safer experience for you.
  • We can fit most brands in this manner, but still need to take into account limitations that might be introduced at remote follow-ups.
  • People qualifying for government support under HSP (pensioners and veterans) can still receive their subsidies under this approach.
  • Travel time is reduced to a single visit, saving time, travel costs and your health risk.
  • Outcomes offered with this model are optimal as no short-cuts are taken.

Limitations of this model.

  • Custom made hearing aids and moulded fittings are not supported in this model, unless you don't mind an additional in-person visit.
  • Time required in clinic is still around 60-90 minutes to complete all testing, fitting and instruction.
  • You need to have a smartphone with good internet to make use of the remote fine tuning.

Low contact, low cost option

phonak-bluetooth-236x300

This is the first service model we created directly in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The model is described in much more detail here. We took the initial consultation online and used some of the online tools we have developed to assess your best options to create a service in which your initial contact in clinic is reduced to a minimum. You basically go into the clinic to check your ears and be fitted with the hearing aids. Everything before and after is done remotely.

Benefits of this model:

  • Cost is reduced as much less of the clinician's expensive time is required.
  • Risk is reduced as we limit contact time to 30- 45 minutes and any contact is made in our clinics where we have instituted stricter than normal infection control.
  • Outcome is still very good as you still benefit from professional selection and professional contact to ensure the foundations of your hearing rehabilitation is very solid. We also offer a face-to-face consultation to address any issues that cannot be addressed remotely, which can be used once the crisis has passed.

Limitations of this model:

  • You still need to travel to one of our clinics to be seen and fitted.
  • You still need to spend 30-45 minutes with the professional in our infection controlled offices.
  • You need a smart phone with internet at home for remote adjustments and follow-ups.
  • We are limited to the two largest hearing aid brands, Phonak and Oticon, as their remote assistance applications appear to be the most stable for these needs.
  • We are limited to fittings that can be done without custom moulding of your ear such as receiver-in-the-ear models. Fortunately, this category makes up about 85% of our fittings.
  • You need to have a smartphone with good internet to make use of the remote fine tuning.
  • Not available to people who wish to make use of their HSP subsidy under the voucher system.

View the models and pricing for models suitable for this model by clicking here. 

Low cost, no contact model

Closeup portrait, senior man, looking happy, excited at something on a cell phone, watching sports game match or reading an sms, e-mail, viewing latest news, isolated white background.This model has also been created considering the limitations of movement COVID-19 places on people. We have seen more and more people being forced online with no option except to accept the poorer outcomes associated with purely online models as they exist today.

So we had a thought: 'what if we flipped everything around while keeping optimal outcomes front and centre?'

This lead us to our supported online model.

We have found a way to combine our online consultation and online speech in noise testing with specific high quality brand name hearing aids, which can be fitted to your hearing via remote fittings.

These same hearing aids can be followed-up and adjusted remotely as well, ensuring the best possible tuning without an in-person visit. All contact takes place via phone and video consultation (using a free hearing aid app) with your hearing aids are posted to you, ready to set up.

We include a in-person visit to be used once the crisis has passed, just to ensure everything has been set-up as well as it possibly can for maximum long-term benefit.

Benefits of this model:

  • Cost is somewhat reduced over the traditional model as less of the clinician's expensive time is required.
  • You still have access to a very high quality hearing aid from a well known brand, so you don't need to be stuck with a less than optimal solution once the crisis passes.
  • Risk is reduced as we essentially eliminate in-clinic contact until the crisis has passed.
  • Outcome is still good as you benefit from professional selection and professional contact and setup via a video call. This ensures the foundations of your hearing rehabilitation is as solid as it can possibly be without attending an audiologist's office.
  • Once the crisis has passed, we can possibly improve the benefit even further by including a face-to-face consultation with one of our hearing specialists to check and adjust your fitting accordingly.

Limitations of this model:

  • You need a smart phone with good internet at home for remote adjustments and follow-ups.
  • You cannot make use of this if you still wish to benefit from a Government subsidy via the Hearing Services Program as they still require the full face to face consultation and fitting process of about 2-3 hours.
  • We are currently limited in the brands that allow the remote fitting ability. Fortunately it is still a major brand, known for having the best sound quality in the industry.
  • We will not be able to check your ears for wax blockages and other issues.
  • We are limited to fittings that can be done without custom molding of your ear such as receiver-in-the-ear models. Fortunately, this category makes up about 85% of our fittings.
  • You need to be willing able to learn new things if you haven't worn hearing aids before, without in-person, professional assistance. We can still help you a lot through phone or video calls. In addition, we have several videos that can help you through the process.
  • Not available to people who wish to make use of their HSP subsidy under the voucher system.

View the hearing aids and their pricing, compatible with this model by clicking here. 

 

Which option is best for you?

Mature woman browsing the internet on a digital tabletI'll try and keep it as simple as possible.

If you wish to make use of any HSP subsidy or compensation claim, then we may be able to limit visits by offering same day hearing aids when available. If you are self-funded then all options are available to you.

In that case consider the following:

  • In-person visits allow the clinician to support you more and allows for quicker changes to the physical fit if required. If this is important, then the same day or low contact model would be ideal.
  • If you are unable to travel to a clinic until the crisis is over, then your only viable option (that still affords a decent outcome) is the low cost, no contact model.
  • To be able to benefit from remote fine tuning you'll require a quiet room, a Smartphone (newer than 2010) and good internet where you are planning to use the remote assistance.
  • Hearing aids able to be delivered via this model range from $1500 each (less for the lower contact models). Those with a HSP subsidy (for eligible pensioners and veterans) this amounts to around $800 per aid off the price and only applies to the same day hearing aid option. These prices are before any health insurance benefits.

How do I find out more, or see if it is viable for me?

It all starts by booking a free virtual consultation with one of our audiologists.

You will also be invited to take the online speech in noise test once you book your time.

During this consultation we can help you explore the options and discover whether any of these are right for you. It is completely free and without any obligation to proceed further.

You can also view the range of hearing aids and their pricing on our online store. NOTE: These prices are only available online.