You may have heard the saying, “use the right tool for the job”, or “you are only as good as your tools.” These sayings are very true when it comes to making sure your Audiology Assistant is effective in their everyday interactions with patients and when communicating with you.
A very important component of the Audiology Assistant tool box is the hardware available for them in their workspace.
COMPUTER & SOFTWARE
Make sure that your Audiology Assistant has easy access to a computer that has all of the software that is required for doing their job well. The software to make sure is loaded on your Audiology Assistant’s computer includes:
Microsoft Office for Word and Excel documents
Office Patient Management Software
Internet connection with secured browser
Make sure your Audiology Assistant’s computer is connected to a network printer or that they have a good working printer at their work station. Depending on the size of the clinic, having a printer at the work station may be more efficient as the Audiology Assistant will not be required to leave their station to retrieve printed documents.
HEARING INSTRUMENT TEST BOX
The Hearing Instrument Test Box is an essential component to any Lab. It can tell your Audiology Assistant a lot about a hearing aid’s function and performance. Having objective data allows the Audiology Assistant to make sound decisions regarding hearing aids with confidence. Using the HIT box will allow the Audiology Assistant to efficiently communicate issues with you and to show the patient that the hearing aids are in good working order or in need of repair. The HIT box should also be used on new orders to determine directional microphone function and match to first fit in the manufacturer software. With repairs, the HIT box can be used to determine that the repair was successful when post-repair results are compared to pre-repair findings.
Tools In the Lab
While it’s not uncommon to choose to ‘make due’ without instruments or tools made specifically for hearing aid repair and maintenance in the Lab, the truth is that having the tool that is specifically designed for a specific job, especially if it’s a job that is performed repeatedly, is a wise investment. Here is a short list of important tools for your Audiology Assistant in the Lab:
Replacing the tubing in an ear mold can sometimes be tricky depending on the width and shape of the mold you are working on. A mold that has an extreme bend in the canal portion will be much harder to re-tube than one that has a straight canal. A tubing puller can make the job much easier.
The air blower tool is a hand held bulb that is used to get moisture and/or debris out of ear mold tubing. To use it effectively, detach the tubing from the ear hook and insert the tip of the blower into the tubing. Squeezing the bulb gently will blow air through the tubing and force any moisture or debris out of the tubing.
Tubing cutters will encourage the accurate cutting of tubing. They have a straight edge to them which allows for a flush cut, especially at the end of the sound bore. Some clinics simply use a pair of sturdy nail clippers to cut tubing. Or, use a pair of suture scissors to get a nice, clean cut.
Tubing stretchers will help to get earmold tubing attached to an ear hook. This tool gets inserted into the end of the tubing (once measured and cut to the appropriate length at the patient’s ear) and will gently stretch the tubing just enough to help attach it to the ear hook.
Sometimes there will be old tubing that is so secure within the ear mold that the tubing breaks when trying to remove it, which will leave tubing and material stuck within the ear mold. A reamer is the go-to tool for clearing the old tubing and looks similar to a drill bit. It comes in different sizes and by twisting the reamer within the ear mold, the tubing will loosen, which makes removal easier.
Use of suction will help clean out the receiver tubing and ports, microphone ports and any area of a hearing aid or ear mold that is difficult to clean with a cleaning brush alone. Forced air will help blow away any loose debris and force moisture out as well.
Hearing aid cleaning brushes aren’t just for patients. They’re a critical tool for the Lab, too. Cleaning brushes are specifically designed for cleaning the microphone openings and sound ports on most hearing aids. They generally have a soft brush tip on one side and may have a wire loop on the other side, used for scooping out any debris that might have gotten stuck inside the openings of the hearing aid.
Some brushes come in kits with varying sizes of brush. Having different sized brushes is important for being able to clean the vents in custom molds and custom hearing aids, as they vary in size. A “pin hole” vent, for instance, will require a very small cleaning brush to be able to clean it thoroughly.
With custom hearing aids, such as ITEs, it’s possible for the hearing aid battery to get stuck inside the hearing aid. Often times, this is accidently done by the patient when they are trying to insert a battery and put it directly into the hearing aid instead of the door. A battery extractor is a metal tool with a curved end that slips underneath the stuck battery and will pull the battery up and out of the hearing aid. Once extracted, it will be important to remind the patient how to accurately insert the battery to avoid future issues.
A leather punch is another tool you may not commonly see, but will come in handy. This will help to punch a hole into a dome to allow for extra air flow and ventilation. Unless an Audiology Assistant is replacing a dome that already had a hole punched in it, they will want to check with the supervising audiologist before doing this on their own as this can alter the sound quality for the patient.
An otoscope is an essential tool for both the Lab and for patient care appointments. The otoscope allows the Audiology Assistant to look at a patient’s ear canal, but it also allows for the inspection of the small internal parts of a hearing aid that may not be easily seen by the naked eye. Keeping an otoscope in the Lab will give your Audiology Assistant a better perspective on what may be malfunctioning in the hearing aid.
Many of these tools may already be available in your Lab. Making sure that your Audiology Assistant has easy access to the tools that the job requires will help them be that much more successful.