The recently passed over-the-counter hearing aid legislation is considered by many hearing healthcare providers to be a shot across the proverbial bow.  The pending re-regulation, which is expected to involve the creation of a product category, sold directly to consumers, could result in more providers offering unbundled services.

As the profession looks for new ways of providing services to adults with hearing loss, a few forward-thinking entrepreneurs have brought new approaches to some timeworn concepts.

One such example is clEAR, a customizable, computer-based auditory training program. The brainchild of Nancy Tye-Murray and her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, clEAR (customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation), is available to patients only through a licensed professional.  The customizable program is subscription-based, thus clinicians can bundle it with the purchase of hearing aids, or offer it as a stand-alone fee-for-service.

Because clEAR is obtained from a licensed professional and not sold directly to consumers, clinicians can tailor the auditory training directly to the needs of the individual. Each clEAR auditory training exercise lasts about 20 minutes and patients are expected to complete two to three exercises per week over a 12 week period. Also, clEAR allows provides instantaneous feedback to the clinician and patient so that progress can be easily tracked.

 

Online Auditory Training Programs

 

Although computer-based auditory training exercises have been available for more than a decade (perhaps the most well-known examples are the Read My Quips and LACE programs), clEAR offers some unique enhancements over earlier types of computer-based programs. For example, the clEAR program includes a recording and automated editing system that enables patients use the speech of a specific frequent communication partner. In addition, clEAR, which works with either a tablet and laptop computer, employs a game-like format, designed to make the training more fun and engaging.

Since clEAR was launched earlier this year, more than 320 hearing healthcare providers in four English-speaking countries have subscribed to the program. Given the initial interest, it seems that clEAR might be gaining traction as an unbundled service option in clinics that offer group aural rehabilitation or have dabbled with other types of computerized auditory training.

Julia Tanner, a private practice owner in California, is an early adopter of clEAR. Dr. Tanner has been offering clEAR for a few months and is thrilled with the results, as she is able to customize lesson plans, follow progress and use instant messaging to stay in close contact with patients without requiring burdensome extra office visits.

 

“The feedback has been very positive for the motivated patient. I feel that they really enjoy the community aspect of the program and they are very motivated to continue to play the games and increase their scores. Most (patients) comment that they are feeling more focused and confident in conversations. I have found the program to be so well organized and easy to use that it is very easy to implement.  The program has been a great asset to my practice.” –Dr. Julia Tanner

 

Even though computerized, game-like auditory training programs are not new, the changing landscape of hearing healthcare, fomented by the rise of OTC products and the growing demand to unbundle services, might be the impetus for more professionals offering programs like clEAR.

4 Responses to Is Web-based Auditory Training Gaining Traction?

  1. Tad Zelski says:

    Kevin,

    yes, If the professional is selected by the patient and the professional follows up with the patient with care, clEAR will send forward the professional provider’s portion the servicing practice.

    The service fee is design to include up to 60 minutes of practice time. If more time is needed then it is up to the the professional provider to discuss their additional fee with the patient. Our experience is that most patients need about 30 minutes in the clinic for instructions and about 5 minutes a week for managing the patient messaging system from the provider’s dashboard on the clEAR web site (www.clearworks4ears.com)

  2. Tad Zelski says:

    It is gratifying to see so many hearing healthcare professionals reaching out to learn how auditory brain training can improve the care that they deliver in their practice. Also, it is important that you are sharing this information on your blog. Practitioners need to know that a viable program for auditory brain training is now available.

  3. Kevin says:

    Does anyone have an idea on how to offer this as part of an unbundled package? The patient can pay for cLEAR right on their website. So does the professional who is the patient chooses through cLEAR receive a portion of the subscription? Or do we charge an extra fee in the unbundled price for the time spent personalizing their lessons/messaging them with support?
    I am very interested in this, but I just want to figure out the logistics. Thank you!

    • Nancy Tye-Murray, PhD says:

      The suggested retail price is $150 for a direct user. The HHP (hearing healthcare professional) has a wholesale price of $75, and with a purchase of 10 subscriptions at a time, an 11th subscription is included free. Once you sign up as an HHP (which requires no cost or obligation), you will have the wholesale price available to you.

      In an unbundled model, the following options are possible:
      1. Charge the patient $150 and hence, receive a fee of $75 for the subscription itself.

      2. In addition to the subscription fee, many HHPs also include an extra fee for clinic time (about 20-30 minutes), where they introduce the program to the patient and maybe perform pre-training assessments (assessment instruments are available on the clEAR HHP page, under the “Resources for my Office” tab).

      3. Charge the patient $130 for a subscription (so the patient receives a reduced fee from the suggested retail price) and then charge an additional fee of $50 to provide oversight.

      A couple of notes:
      · Some practices have an audiology assistant or administrative assistant perform the orientation and the messaging (and by the way, messaging can be accomplished as quickly as it takes to send a cell text).

      · If a direct user comes to the clEAR site and purchases a subscription directly, clEAR assigns the patient to a clEAR HHP in the patient’s vicinity and then gives half the subscription fee to the HHP (i.e., $75). This creates a win-win situation, where the practice gets a new patient (and possibly and ultimately, new hearing aid sales) and the patient receives oversight from a clEAR HHP.

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