Are ‘self-fit’ hearing aids turning the audiology industry on its ear?

In the past, I’ve received criticism from audiologists who haven’t understood the role our self-fit IHearYou® system plays in helping people achieve optimal hearing outcomes and empowering them to manage their hearing.  

So I was heartened to read an article addressed to audiologists written by Phonaks’ lead fitting researcher Michael Boretzki on what he calls ‘self-adjustment’.

He writes:

“I believe that fine-tuning hearing aids in the clinical setting is restricted because it’s not a real-world listening environment.

Think of the user having a conversation in a restaurant, reading a book in public transport, listening to the radio in the car or to music in the concert hall. Be honest. It can be difficult to precisely know what you customer prefers in all these different listening situations.”

Dissatisfaction with audiologist tuning is a big reason thousands of expensive hearing aids are at this very minute sitting in draws all over Australia.

I can cite one study where participants with audiologist-tuned hearing aids found loudness softer or louder than preferred in 50% of listening situations encountered.

“With self-adjustment, you can let [clients] determine the best combination of settings for better hearing in each situation,” Boretzki writes.

This is exactly what our IHearYou® self-fit system allows you to do.

Inventor Professor Peter Blamey said:

“IHearYou® is designed to put you in control of your hearing…Now you can set your hearing aids up just the way you want them – anywhere and any time.”

Research reveals that in other health areas, active participation in the treatment of chronic conditions has led to more satisfactory outcomes.

A 2013 New Zealand study by Erin Keach showed that to be true for hearing aid users:

“The same hearing aid fine-tuned by an audiologist or by the user gave similar objective results, but the users preferred the sound of the ones they had fine-tuned themselves[3].”

But the benefits don’t stop there.

Removing the need to visit a professional for fine-tuning lowers costs. And increased psychological ownership (meaning the likelihood someone will wear their hearing aids) results from the time and effort an individual invests in the self-fitting process.

The other benefit untouched on by Boretzki is that a self-fit system, backed by telehealth, makes it suddenly possible to access hearing health for people who can’t reach audiological services.

Boretzki goes on to describe his vision for a client-clinician ‘team-fitting’ approach.

“This combination – where you provide the foundation for better hearing adjustments in the clinic and your customer refines it in real, everyday life – can be very, very powerful. This is what we want – the best hearing experience possible for our customers’

I love how he says,

“You know what? Most customers don’t think they are able to do a self-adjustment, whereas they actually are able to do it. They simply don’t know it yet”.  

Although IHearYou® is simple to use (if you’re a whiz at Facebook or can use a device to access your emails or you won’t have a problem ), we can meet you at your confidence level.

My clinicians show clients how to use IHearYou® during their appointment, and my teleaudiology team uses video consultation, screen-share technology or a simple phone call to walk them through the process.

Boretzki says,

“My strong opinion is that self-adjustment will increase user satisfaction and extendability for hearing care professionals to expand their services beyond the current limits of an appointment at the clinic!”

Speaking as someone who has practically applied this for almost seven years:

it works!

Blamey Saunders hears believes that people with straightforward hearing loss and/or a positive attitude are good candidates for self-managed care, coupled with a higher level of support when needed.

We can promptly identify people who need or want hearing help and then support them remotely or direct them to a face-to-face audiology care model.  

Some clients believe they can set up the hearing aids themselves, but later find that they have complex hearing issues, which need the attention and support of a good auditory rehabilitation specialist.  

A combined products and services model helps provide people with hearing care in their home.

Our system is truly client-centered.

IHearYou® is a tool that can put the client in the driver’s seat, allowing them to match their settings to real® world listening conditions. This is what Boretzki has been looking for!

Our system empowers clients to choose how they receive service and support – they can go the self-help route, with telephone support; opt for a video consultation with a clinician; or see a clinician face to face, regardless of proximity.

This unique system cuts to the heart of health innovation, increasing client engagement and enhancing their outcomes and experience.

The IHearYou® self-fit system explained in 3 easy steps:

  1. Take our clinically proven online Speech Perception Test.
    Your results tell us whether or not our aids are suitable for you and if so, we use them to set up your hearing aids.
  2. Order online, over the phone or pick up your pre-set hearing aids from one of our clinics.
  3. Personalise your settings using an app on your smartphone or computer.

You tell the hearing aid about your loudness preferences by listening to a series of chimes and adjusting the volume so they’re all about the same.

You can do this simple step in any listening environments using an app on your smartphone, and save the settings as programs that you can access by tapping a switch on the side of your hearing aid.

If a client wants or needs some help they’re connected via telehealth methods to our clinical team. Or, they can come into one of our clinics.

Are you an audiologist interested in this ‘team fitting’ approach? What do you think of a mixed model? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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