Phonak announced that it is responding to the need for those with hearing loss to receive essential care amid the COVID-19 pandemic with technology that will allow hearing care professionals (HCPs) to deliver remote audiological care. This new telehealth technology is comprised of a suite of Phonak eSolutions featuring online hearing testing as well as real-time remote hearing aid fitting, programming, and fine-tuning. These tools work together to remotely connect providers with patients at “every stage of the hearing care journey from the comfort and safety of their homes.”

A Critical Time for Those with Hearing Loss

Prior to COVID-19, research showing the association between hearing loss and socio-emotional challenges such as increased loneliness1, distress2, depressive thoughts,2,3 and an overall lower quality of life4 was well-documented. Now, a new study published in The Lancet examining the psychological impact of quarantine found that social-distancing and self-quarantine is likewise linked to an increase in depression, stress, or low mood.5 

“These findings are especially worrying for people living with hearing loss who are now dealing with the realities of social distancing,” said Angela Pelosi, director of global audiology for Phonak. “Hearing well and having easy access to the right technology are key to maintaining important human connections, especially during periods of isolation. Our goal was to develop technology that empowers people with hearing loss to move forward in their hearing journey without allowing COVID-19 to get in the way of their hearing and communication goals.” 

Expanding Access to Professional Hearing Care 

Phonak has been involved in the development of eAudiology best practices, technologies, and services that enable remote audiological care (eAudiology) for several years. While initially developed to complement the delivery of hearing care, these tools have now become useful in light of COVID-19. 

  • The Phonak Hearing Screener is an online tool for anyone who wishes to perform a simple hearing check. It’s free to use and the results can be shared with a local HCP to pre-assess whether the person may benefit from hearing aids. The Phonak Hearing Screener will be continually updated over the coming weeks to provide more frequencies and greater access for HCPs. 
  • With AudiogramDirect, Phonak introduces another “world’s first:” the ability for patients to receive a remote hearing test directly through their hearing aids with no accessory required—regardless if they own an iOS® or Android™ smartphone or tablet. This is made possible thanks to wireless connectivity between Phonak Marvel hearing aids and virtually any Bluetooth® device using the myPhonak app.

Using AudiogramDirect, HCPs can administer an audiogram that serves as the starting point for new remote fittings until face-to-face appointments can safely resume. This software was originally designed to check a patient’s hearing during an in-person follow-up session, but has now been enhanced to feature remote fitting capabilities, even taking into account the properties of the individual ear, the acoustic coupling, and the chosen hearing aids.

  • Phonak Remote Support now enables patients to have their hearing aids remotely fit, programmed, adjusted, and optimized in real-time in the exact environment they’re currently listening in—all via the myPhonak app. During remote sessions, Phonak hearing aids communicate information regarding the patient’s acoustic environment back to the hearing care professional. This allows for “on-the-spot” adjustments and fine-tuning capabilities that could not be replicated with a traditional office visit.

“While this technology is not intended to replace clinical best practices nor in-person audiological care, it represents a way for practices to continue delivering quality hearing care while their patients remain safely at home,” added Pelosi. “During this challenging time, it’s especially important for those with hearing loss to have access to professional hearing health care, whether they are just beginning their hearing journey, are currently in-trial, or are experienced wearers needing fine-tuning. It not only allows them to remain socially connected but also helps to preserve and enhance their overall well-being in the short and long term.”

Phonak’s suite of eSolutions are compatible with all Phonak Audéo™ Marvel, Bolero™ Marvel, Naída™ Marvel, and Audéo™ B-Direct hearing aids.

Bluetooth® word mark is a registered trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such mark by Sonova AG is under license.

iOS is a trademark of Cisco Technology, Inc.

Android is a trademark of Google LLC.

1.   Kramer SE, Kapteyn TS, Kuik DJ, Deeg DJH. The association of hearing impairment and chronic diseases with psychosocial health status in older age. Journal of Aging and Health. 2002;14(1):122–137. 

2.  Nachtegaal J, Smit JH, Smits C, et al. The association between hearing status and psychosocial health before the age of 70 years: Results from an internet-based national survey on hearing. Ear and Hearing. 2009;30(3):302–312.

3.  Keidser G, Seeto M. The influence of social interaction and physical health on the association between hearing and depression with age and gender. Trends in Hearing. 2017;21:1-15.

4.  Ciorba A, Bianchini C, Pelucchi S, Pastore A. The impact of hearing loss on the quality of life of elderly adults. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2012;7:159–163. 

5.  Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet. 2020;395(10227):P912-920.

Source: Phonak

Images: Phonak