Remote Audiology Delivery Care-COVID19

Authors: Kaustubh Bhatnagar1, Sanchi Sachdeva2
Kaustubh Bhatnagar- Regional Head Asia, Medtronic Labs
2Sanchi Sachdeva- Senior Audiologist, Medtronic Labs

COVID-19 is an infectious disease. Older adults are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from   COVID-19 illness.1 Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in the older adults, and it is becoming a severe social and health problem.2 According to WHO, over 5% of the world’s population comprising of 466 million people has disabling hearing loss.3 Conventionally for delivering audiology services in our communities face to face appointments are required. Traditional Audiology outcomes comprise of hearing and speech tests that are performed in a sound treated booth.4 As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all countries, everyone has had to adapt in some way to this strange new normal.5 Many audiologists have considered offering audiology services remotely, via tele practice. Tele-audiology encompasses many forms that are currently available today, from remote hearing aid programming through an app on a smartphone to comprehensive remote evaluations with patient and provider at distant sites.6 Shruti  was launched by Medtronic in 2013, as an innovative ear care programme to deliver awareness, screening, diagnosis, and treatment for the underserved population in densely populated, low-income urban settlements and rural areas. . As of March 2019, the programme is operational in 65 + hospitals and clinics through which more than 850,000 people have been screened.

The programme is delivered by train Ear Care Counsellors (ECCs) who work with remotely located Otolaryngologists and Audiologists to deliver complete continuum of ear care in the community itself. These ECCs are equipped with Ear Screening Kits comprised of ENTraview – a mobile based smart otoscope capable of otoscopic and audiometric screening and remote audiology delivery through Hearing Care Kiosks (HCKs). Remote audiology work flow is given below in the figure.

This remote audiology service delivery model is optimal for the post-COVID19 world, especially in communities where there is shortage of skilled Audiologists. As technologies play an increasingly pivotal part in the audiology delivery care, there is a huge need to create more robust e-audiology solutions to cater to increasing hearing loss population.