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Veterans Now Get Hearing Aids Closer to Home

By Taylor Sisk, 3/19/2012With new technology, more health care services can be provided remotely. The Department of Veterans Affairs is jumping on the trend.

Charles Alligood sat in the locker room of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Greenville listening to a recorded male voice deliver a short exposition on the carrot – that it’s a reddish-yellow root vegetable with several thin leaves on a long stem, belongs to the parsley family, is grown all over the world – most of which he probably already knew and/or couldn’t care less about.
But Alligood, 67, didn’t drive 20-odd miles from his home in Washington for a horticulture lesson. The room where he sat has been fashioned into an audiology lab, and Alligood came to be fitted for hearing aids, focusing his attention on the narrator’s voice.
Last November, the Durham VA Medical Center (VAMC) was selected as one of 10 VA centers to participate in a pilot project that allows veterans to have their hearing aids remotely programmed and fine-tuned.  
The objective is to help validate what the VA calls “tele-modality” as an effective means of providing audiology services to rural areas.
In 2010, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki identified telehealth as one of his “transformation initiatives” for the VA.
While Alligood sat in Greenville, assisted by an audiology health technician, Dr. Nancy Jones, chief of audiology and speech pathology at the Durham VAMC, communicated with him via teleconference from a computer in her office.
A pcAnywhere software application allowed Jones to control the instruments on a “teleaudiology” cart in Greenville. She was able to adjust Alligood’s new hearing aids, and communicate with him face to face, as if she were in the same room.
Appointments are scheduled in Greenville with veterans from the eastern part of the state every Wednesday. Not only does the program reduce travel time and costs (Alligood, for example, would otherwise have to make a five-hour roundtrip journey to Durham), the proximity of the facility means the veterans are more likely to schedule follow-up appointments to maintain the quality of their hearing aids.
Thanks to Mitchel Turbin