In Vietnam, Army Veteran Jerry Smith was a paratrooper. When he got home, he thought he would never be able to hear again. “In the Infantry, machine guns, rifles, hand grenades; all those noises blew my hearing away,” he said.
For years, Smith has been getting his health care at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s community-based outpatient clinic in Baton Rouge. The clinic has three audiologists working in-house and one audiologist who sees patients via telehealth. Smith recently decided to give the telehealth option try.
Upon arrival for a telehealth fitting, Veterans meet audiology health technician Audrey Fleet. Fleet makes sure Veterans are prepared for the fitting, looking into their ears to make sure they are clear and ready. Then, she gives the Veterans a basic orientation on how to use the hearing aids. During the orientation, telehealth audiologist Dr. Jessica Riggs joins the conversation remotely via video from her office in Mobile, Alabama. Once all three parties are in place, the telehealth fitting begins.
Smith said his telehealth fitting appointment with Fleet and Dr. Riggs was almost like being in the same room. “Audrey was able to put me at ease. With the telehealth, the doctor was able to say, ‘You’re gonna hear some bells ringing for a minute as I adjust the aids’ and it was instantaneous.”
Fleet explained why she thinks tele-audiology is a good fit for Veterans of her clinic. “Most of the time they can get in a little sooner if they do a telehealth fitting,” she said. “The primary benefit is the time saved, less wait for an appointment. We’ve had very good survey results.”