Posted on Friday, 21st November 2014 by

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Best Practices and the State of Audiological Care

In my June post, How to Manage Your Own Hearing Health Care, I discussed the steps that should be taken to enhance your hearing, including identifying and achieving your hearing goals. While setting goals may sound trivial, research has shown that following clinical best-practices (including goal-setting) improves your chances for a successful hearing outcome (Valente, Abrams, et al, 2006).

Despite the obvious benefits of clinical best-practices, and despite having a popular set of best-practice guidelines for audiology (Kochkin. et al, 2010), many audiologists still fail to provide essential hearing services. A large percentage of audiologists still fail to verify that hearing aids are set to the patient prescription, and many fail to set or measure hearing goals.

That’s OK, right? You’re in the hands of an expert … right?

Unfortunately this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Consumer Reports estimates that as many as two-thirds of hearing aids in the US are “misfit.” With such poor outcomes, and with the cost of hearing devices at a premium, is it any wonder why so many consumers put off visiting the hearing clinic?

Enter Hearing Tracker

One company has come up with a clever solution to this issue that should prove to be a win-win proposition for both consumers and providers. Meet Dr. Abram Bailey, a doctor of audiology, and graduate of Vanderbilt University. Dr. Bailey and his partner, Logan Lowell, a data scientist, founded HearingTracker.com, a website which helps consumers find hearing providers who adhere to best practices.

The company publishes an online directory of over 17,000 hearing providers throughout the United States – the largest directory of its kind – and provides intuitive tools for locating providers with positive customer feedback. HearingTracker.com also boasts the largest collection of online hearing aid reviews in the world, giving undecided consumers a place to investigate their options.

Information is the Key to Success

As much as he wanted to, Dr. Bailey realized that he could not change audiology “one patient at a time.” He realized that the key to changing hearing outcomes in audiology was to expose the good and bad in the profession, in order to help consumers make more informed decisions when selecting audiologists.

Many online resources provide tips and suggestions for “interviewing” audiologists – to improve your chances of finding someone competent. Visiting and interviewing multiple providers to find the right one sounds cumbersome and inefficient, especially in an era of abundant information. Dr. Bailey reasoned that if patient outcomes were published online, consumers could select community-vetted audiologists and more easily improve their chances for a success.

Where Can You Find Good Hearing Care?

Audiologists on HearingTracker.com are ranked based on customer feedback and patient-reported hearing outcomes, so consumers may readily find a provider with a proven track record. The site also reveals a provider’s educational background and professional qualifications, making it easier to find knowledgeable experts.

Looking toward the future, HearingTracker.com has begun the process of verifying the clinical protocols of providers on the site. The first step for a provider is to complete a best-practice survey, to show the site that he or she is providing essential services. To become fully-verified, the provider must also submit de-identified files for clinical review. One of HearingTracker.com’s staff audiologists personally reviews the files to ensure that all essential services are provided and documented.

It is hoped that this attention to detail will set HearingTracker.com apart from other online services, and help ensure the best possible hearing outcomes for consumers suffering from hearing loss.

Hearing Aid Consumer Reviews

HearingTracker.com currently hosts the largest number of authenticated hearing aid reviews anywhere on the internet. Consumers may browse hundreds of new hearing aid models and learn about the latest advancements. They may also narrow their search based on a number of important technological features, such as iPhone-compatibility or remote control functionality. If a visitor finds a hearing aid in the hearing aid reviews section, and wishes to discuss it with an audiologist, the visitor can be matched with a local expert on that brand.

Closing Thoughts

As a consumer, you have many ways to navigate the hearing health care system. A good first step is to consult an audiologist who takes the time to ask you about your hearing needs – at home, at work and while engaging in leisure activities – and who assesses your hearing issues using standardized best practices. HearingTracker.com may be worth checking out since it is a network composed of vetted audiologists whose reputations are on the line if you are not satisfied. If you give HearingTracker.com a try, be sure you let Dr. Bailey know how you like it. And feel free to email me as well: cccomptonconley@gmail.com.

Hopefully, through the efforts of Dr. Bailey, and other innovative thought-leaders in the profession, the day will come when all Americans will be able to obtain high-quality, standardized hearing health care

References:
Valente, M., Abrams, H., et al. (2006). Guidelines for the Audiologic Management of Adult Hearing Impairment. Audiology Today, 18(5)

Kochkin, S., et al. (2010). MarkeTrak VIII: The Impact of the Hearing Healthcare Professional on Hearing Aid User Success. Hearing Review, 17(4):12-34.

Cynthia Compton-Conley Ph. D. is a Board Certified Doctor of Audiology, Professor of Audiology, Hearing Industry Consultant and Host of the Hearing Loss Help Forum. Dr.  Cynthia is a retired Professor of Audiology who taught in the graduate school at federally-funded Gallaudet University for 32 years and retired in the CSRS system.  In 2013 she founded Compton-Conley Consulting.

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We do not provide medical advice. This website and the information provided on this site are intended solely for consumer education. This website and its information services do not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care practice and nothing contained in this website is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical advice from your physician or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on this website.  While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in providing information on hearing loss and associated hearing enhancement or hearing protection technology, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this forum and Website, replies to site visitor questions, or prepared articles, and they specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a physician or audiologist where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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