Auditory Screening Tool Finds Permanent Home at Bruyère
Audio permeates every moment of our lives, and the ability to hear can have a deep impact on our quality of life. It’s as simple as hearing the kettle go off, as pleasurable as catching music on the radio, and as crucial as hearing our doctors’ recommendations. That is why after a two month pilot, Bruyère has procured SHOEBOX Ltd’s QuickTest auditory screening tool for permanent implementation at the Élisabeth Bruyère and Saint-Vincent hospitals in Ottawa.
Bruyère is a multi-site academic health care provider that predominately serves older adults, and every day hundreds of patients are served across Bruyère’s campuses. Even mild hearing loss can impact a person’s health care, but in many cases, it remains a hidden disability that is underdiagnosed, partially due to the gradual nature of hearing loss. If left unidentified, hearing loss can easily translate to reduced treatment adherence and higher rates of negative care outcomes.
When a person enters a doctor’s office, their exchange relies almost entirely on the assumed ability to clearly hear and interpret the conversation. Patients share their aliments, concerns, and progress. Clinicians, therapists, and care teams share diagnoses, recommendations, and treatments. Two-way communication is the cornerstone to good care, so Bruyère is committed to ensuring care providers are aware of whether or not the communication is really going both ways with SHOEBOX QuickTest.
During its pilot in Bruyère’s Geriatric Rehabilitation Program, SHOEBOX QuickTest helped identify 74 out of 75 patients with some degree of hearing loss in at least one ear, resulting in an immediate increase in the use of pocket talker amplifiers and communication strategies. Three times more patients were offered referrals to audiologists per month where it was identified and warranted by their screening results over the course of the pilot.
Thirty-five percent of those patients were surprised by their results, and 53% were unaware that they reduced or very reduced hearing capabilities without SHOEBOX QuickTest. That adds to the amplified challenges posed by hearing loss via the pandemic. With masking mandates on site and an increased use of virtual care and telemedicine, two-way communication between patient and care provider has become even more difficult among older adults.
Supported by the CANHealth Network and motivated by the clear benefits witnessed in the pilot and over the course of the pandemic, Bruyère is rolling out the tool as a permanent new part of health care in the Geriatric Rehabilitation Program, Geriatric Day Hospital, and Saint Vincent Hospital’s Specialized Services – collectively seeing over a thousand patients per year. Having immediate screening results is bringing the issue into view and motivating more patients and physicians to take action. Ultimately, the ability to test the technology in a real-time clinical setting gave Bruyère the confidence to pursue procurement.
Screening results are already being leveraged by care teams to pivot communication strategies. It may also serve to help identify where symptoms of dementia or cognitive impairment may be amplified, as auditory screening is not typically in the battery of tests recommended by physicians when treating older adults with memory or cognitive impairment.
Between the initial validation study conducted by the Bruyère Research Institute and the clinical pilot, data shows SHOEBOX QuickTest has provided meaningful insights to patients and raised physician awareness when identifying and responding to hearing loss. With thousands of older adults visiting Bruyère per year, this technology has the capacity to make an impact in the community – as hearing loss is identified and treated at greater rates, it plays into larger societal benefits and a reduced cost of care in the long-run.