Since the beginning of the COVID-19 health crisis, clear communication has been vitally important for the safety of people around the world. For adults and children with hearing loss, the barriers to communication have been complicated by the debate about whether or not hearing-related care is an essential service. As local and state governments work to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by ordering non-essential services to close their doors, hearing care providers have been caught in a gray area, which has reduced access to care for people with hearing loss.
“Hearing is unquestionably essential—not only for effective communication, but also for mental health and personal safety. But what crystalized for me during this pandemic is that the healthcare system formally refers to hearing professionals as ‘ancillary providers’—a designation that implies supportive, but not necessarily essential,” said Starkey Chief Health Officer Archelle Georgiou, MD. “So, when stay-at-home orders for COVID-19 required businesses to classify their services as essential or non-essential, many hearing professionals internalized this label, felt non-essential, and closed their offices.”
People with hearing loss, many of whom also provide essential services, continue to need access to health and hearing care during this challenging time. Fortunately, many hearing care providers are being innovative and taking steps to carefully re-open their doors after weeks of closures, including updating their safety and cleanliness practices.
“During a crisis, it’s more important than ever that people stay connected,” said Starkey President Brandon Sawalich. “For people with hearing loss, it can be a fight to stay engaged, perform their jobs, or be there for family and friends. They are present but separated by an invisible barrier that can limit social engagement and performance throughout their lives. People need to be connected to their loved ones and their community. It’s as simple as that.”
To help navigate the challenges presented by social distancing guidelines, remote strategies, such as Starkey’s Hearing Care Anywhere capabilities, allow hearing care professionals to safely meet many patients’ needs by making fine-tuning hearing aid adjustments for patients remotely. Many hearing providers are also implementing curbside pick-up and drop-off for hearing aid repair needs, as well as limiting the number of people in their offices.
Starkey has created a resource page to help hearing providers safely navigate this pandemic. For regular updates and information, please click here.