Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic enhances infection control in response to COVID-19

Written by Shelly Harvat, AuD, CCC-A. Posted in Our Community

During the past few months, the COVID-19 virus has dominated the lives and livelihood of everyone around the world. We’re all probably tired of hearing about it, but COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, headache, body aches, sore throat, and shortness of breath. COVID-19 has been declared a public health emergency worldwide, and countries went into lockdown in March and April 2020 in order to prevent and control the disease due to its seriousness and the mortality rate among those who catch it. Although the quarantine is being phased out in Ohio, recommended measures to prevent infection are still in place, including hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, social distancing, and avoiding touching your face (eyes, nose, and mouth) with unwashed hands.

As Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic gets back up and running, we would like you to know that we are following measures recommended by the CDC, State of Ohio, and American Academy of Audiology to prevent our patients and ourselves from catching the virus.

While we have always followed infection-control practices, in the wake of the COVID-19 virus, we’ve enhanced these practices and implemented changes to keep our patients, their families, ourselves, and our families safe.

Our staff will do the following:

1. Body temperatures will be taken daily before reporting to work. Any employee with a fever or any ill-health symptoms (sore throat, cough, body ache, shortness of breath) will stay home.

2. We will wear a face mask at all times, practice proper hand washing, and use gloves when needed.

3. We will practice social distancing at work and when away from our homes.

4. We will maintain an adequate supply of FDA-approved sanitizers/disinfectants, gloves, and masks.

5. Shared equipment will be sanitized when changing users.

6. We will clean frequently used surfaces such as door handles, counter tops, etc.

7. We will continue to sanitize or dispose of equipment parts used on patients as in the past.

For patients coming to the office, our procedures will minimize their time in the waiting room and keep them socially distant from other patients. Some of our changes include:

1. During the confirmation call the day before the appointment, the patient will be asked to take their temperature and will be asked if they are experiencing symptoms of fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, body aches, or respiratory symptoms. Patients may also be asked to have their temperature taken upon arrival to our building depending on facility requirements.

2. Patients will be asked to limit the number of family/friends accompanying them to the appointment to only one necessary caregiver. If needed, family or friends will be asked to stay in the vehicle in the parking lot during the appointment, and results and recommendations can be relayed via phone to the family.

3. Upon arrival to our parking lot, patients will be asked to remain in their vehicle and call our office to report their arrival to check in. We will call each patient when we are ready to see them to avoid having the patient sit in the waiting room and be exposed to other patients. Our receptionist will practice social distancing, use a mask, and don gloves as necessary.

4. Patients will be given a mask to wear upon entrance to our office or facility if they are not already wearing one.

5. Hearing aids and hearing equipment will be sanitized appropriately before being handled by the audiologists. The use of hearing aid and earmold sanitizing equipment and sanitizing sprays will be strongly encouraged by the audiologists for patient use at home. We will have electric hearing aid sanitizer units and hearing aid sanitizer spray on sale and can arrange to ship the supplies to patients if necessary.

6. Please do not be offended if we treat you as if you (or we) have the virus. We are taking these measures to keep you, your loved ones, as well as ourselves and our loved ones safe.

We would like to remind all people donning face masks at this time that people with hearing loss and people communicating in noisy places or communicating at a distance rely on facial expression and lip reading to fill in the blanks of missed speech sounds. Wearing a mask covers up your facial expressions and mouth and can muffle speech, creating different degrees of difficulty for each person. Practicing good communication strategies is crucial while wearing masks and social distancing. Keep in mind that the person to whom you are speaking may or may not be able to hear you clearly while you have your face covered by a mask and are six feet away.

Tips for communicating effectively while wearing masks

For the speaker:

  • Face the person directly, on the same level, and in good light whenever possible.
  • Speak clearly, slowly, distinctly, but naturally, without shouting or exaggerating mouth movements.
  • Say the person’s name before beginning a conversation.
  • Ask the person to confirm what they have just heard so you know they understand your speech.

For the listener:

  • Let others know that you have hearing loss upfront or that you are having trouble hearing them through their mask.
  • Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for what you need.
  • Keep background noise low when possible. Move to a quieter area, close doors to loud noise, mute the TV, etc. to minimize noise levels.
  • If you are unsure you understood, summarize what you think was said so the speaker can confirm or explain again.
  • Face the person you’re speaking with.

Our office has been closed during the quarantine except for emergency hearing aid repairs. Although the CDC and State of Ohio have relaxed those limits, it does not mean that we are safe from transmitting or catching the COVID-19 virus. Safety precautions must still be taken by all. The audiologists and staff at Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic recognize the gravity of the current public health situation, and we want our current and future patients and their families to know that we are available to support their hearing and balance needs in ways that are aligned with public safety. Although our office was considered “nonessential” during the quarantine, we realize that hearing testing and hearing aids are vital for our patients so that they can stay connected with their families, friends, workplaces, religious institutions, and even their televisions.

We look forward to seeing and hearing from our current and future patients and their families in this new age of enhanced public safety. We’re committed, as always, to providing expert care and sound results. Please call us to schedule appointments, order supplies, or ask questions about your hearing, tinnitus, or balance trouble.

Shelly Horvat, AuD, CCC-A, is a Doctor of Audiology with Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, located at 1125 Hospital Dr., Suite 50 in Toledo (419-383-4012) and 1601 Brigham Dr., Suite 160 in Perrysburg (419-873-4327).