Navigating COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Starkey Makes Remote Programming Available to All Patients and Helps Hearing Professionals Continue Business Operations

Hearing is often taken for granted until it is lost. During these challenging times, hearing is more important than ever to ensure important information is effectively communicated.

“In a public health emergency, hearing is critical. Consider how much important information is being shared in the news and in public service messages. It can be difficult for any of us to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle. Imagine how vulnerable those with hearing loss are feeling,” said Archelle Georgiou, M.D., Starkey’s Chief Health Officer. “And there are unique challenges for people with hearing loss in this crisis. Important new research demonstrates how significantly masks degrade speech reception, which may result in those with hearing loss being at greater risk,” referencing a new piece of research by Alexander Goldin, PhD, Barbara Weinstein, PhD, and Nimrod Shiman intended to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Hearing Review.i

Today, Starkey announces an exciting update that allows hearing professionals to serve patients during the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of telehealth. Hearing Care Anywhere remote programming is now enabled for all patients across all technology tiers of Starkey’s Livio, Livio AI and Livio Edge AI hearing aids. This exciting change enables professionals to make fine-tuning adjustments to optimize hearing aid performance while ensuring patient safety.

“Although telehealth has been available for over twenty-five years, hearing healthcare practitioners have been slow to embrace the technology. For many clinics, up to 30% of appointments are for minor adjustments, which could be handled via Hearing Care Anywhere,” said Dave Fabry, Ph.D., Starkey’s Chief Innovation Officer. “In the past, clinicians needed to initiate remote programming via the Inspire software during face-to-face visits. With this latest update, even patients whose devices were not originally configured for remote programming are now able to receive care from their hearing healthcare provider without going into the provider’s office.”

This is just the solution that Terence Limb, Au.D. was waiting for. Dr. Limb, who practices in Kirkland, Washington, said, “Since early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to balance the dilemma of protecting our patients while ensuring their hearing devices are performing optimally. In the past, we didn’t always enable Hearing Care Anywhere in Inspire. This update enables me to continue to engage with patients during this difficult time. Moreover, it will change the way that we can better serve patient needs in the future.”

Gyl Kasewurm, Au.D., an audiologist in St. Joseph, Michigan, agrees wholeheartedly. “During this time of crisis, we have found the Hearing Care Anywhere feature to be essential in being able to help our patients. While these unprecedented circumstances have forced us to embrace telehealth and the ability to remotely program hearing aids for our patients, we have discovered that remote patient care—which we previously thought of as “disruptive” to our business—has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to better serve our patients while protecting everyone’s health.”

For a practice that has never used remote programming, just a few simple steps are required to get started. Starkey’s Hearing Care Anywhere training and support resources provide an easy-to-follow process that gets a practice ready to incorporate telehealth as part of overall “best practice” approach to hearing care

After the initial set up, it’s easy for professionals to guide patients over the phone. First the patient requests an adjustment using their Thrive Hearing Control app, sending the settings information to their hearing professional from the hearing aid. The hearing professional then makes any required adjustment to those settings, sending the adjustment back to that patient’s hearing aids. Patients are able to compare the new adjustments to their current settings and accept the adjustment.

“In most cases, we suggest professionals have patients use the adjustment for a period of time, usually a day, and then have a quick follow up conversation with their professional to make sure the situation has improved,” suggests Sara Burdak, Au.D., Starkey’s Chief Audiology Officer.

Customers using Hearing Care Anywhere report that the benefits of Hearing Care Anywhere extend beyond the value of the adjustment. Dr. Kasewurm reports that patients “appreciate the opportunity of having minor adjustments made via telehealth, while knowing that they can ALWAYS see one of our professionals for visits that require the personalized, patient-driven care that we are known for in our market.”

Dr. Limb states that “while the immediate benefits of this update for Hearing Care Anywhere are often older, most vulnerable patients, we are also finding that the emerging Baby Boomer patients appreciate the convenience of remote programming in combination with the benefits of professionally-delivered care. I have to say that this whole experience has re-energized my enthusiasm for the way that I can compete in the market and move beyond patient satisfaction to patient ‘delight.’”

Fabry adds that “Starkey’s commitment to developing this update for Hearing Care Anywhere was motivated by efficiency, convenience, and improved personalization for hearing outcomes. During the COVID-19 crisis, safety has become a key benefit. We see this technology and approach helping patients both now and into the future.”

Online training materials are available on Starkey’s professional websites and an Audiology Online course provides step-by-step remote programming directions for professionals.

i “Speech blocked by surgical masks becomes a more important issue in the era of COVID-19,” by Alexander Goldin, PhD, Barbara Weinstein, PhD, and Nimrod Shiman.