Phonak, Stäfa, Switzerland, has announced that it will start a pilot program through Iron Bow to provide the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) real-life opportunities for employing modern telehealth solutions to enable a distance fitting approach for hearing aids. With this distance support solution, the two organizations are further leading the way in the field of eHearingcare in an effort to make the lives of veterans with hearing loss easier, Phonak said. The development of the solution is already well-advanced, and first field trials will start this summer.
The VA is one of the most important providers of hearing care in the United States. In a given year, over 1,000 audiologists at the VA provide more than 375,000 hearing aid adjustments and care services. A necessary and important part of that process is fine-tuning of hearing aids. With the introduction of VA HearAssist, a veteran can be anywhere in the world and have his or her hearing aids adjusted. Phonak, through Iron Bow, is one of the two partners to develop this solution for the VA.
According to Phonak, VA HearAssist allows the hearing aid wearer to connect via smartphone to the audiologist’s fitting software via a secure internet connection. Using a Bluetooth link between the hearing aid and smartphone mobile app developed by Phonak, the audiologist can then directly access the hearing aids, without the use of an additional intermediary device. This allows the provider to check and adjust settings in real-time, while at the same time providing advice to the hearing aid wearer via video conference.
Both audiologists and veterans benefit from this technology. VA HearAssist is designed to be easy to use—all it requires is the installation of the corresponding Android or iOS app on a preferred device. It is also designed to be efficient and save on travel and waiting time. At the same time the app enables hearing aid wearers to take a more active role during the fitting process, says the company.
“We are honored that Phonak has been selected as a trusted partner for running this pilot study,” said Jan Metzdorff, president of Phonak US. “We have been working closely together for many years and this partnership once again proves our unwavering commitment to push the limits of technology and our efforts in the field of eSolutions for hearing care.”
VA HearAssist will explore base line clinical trials at three VA facilities in Cleveland, Chicago, and Miami this summer with a selected group of veterans.