Hearing test opens eyes to health-care options

Vernon company's outreach clinic appreciated by Sicamous resident.

The process of acquiring hearing aids has opened Juanita Etson’s eyes, and ears, to the Internet’s potential for the provision of medical services to rural communities.

It began when Etson saw a notice with a phone number at the Sicamous Medical Clinic for a free hearing test. While she didn’t think there was anything overly wrong with her hearing, Etson says one of her ears seemed plugged all the time (which she later learned to be an indicator of a hearing issue). So she gave the number a call, and eventually connected with NexGen Hearing in Vernon, and owner/registered hearing instrument practitioner, Bea Jackson.

Etson then learned that Jackson has a space at the clinic where she interviews people for hearing tests.

“We’re very fortunate she’s able to come here and do this and Dr. (Jack) Beech gives her space in his building to use. It’s a good partnership I think,” said Etson, who has since acquired hearing aids through NexGen. “It certainly does bring a service to Sicamous that wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Equally impressive to Etson is the follow-up service Jackson offers through the Internet via virtual care software, Medeo. The program, Etson explains, allows her to communicate from home with Jackson in Vernon.

“I remember before I changed the batteries in my hearing aids, Bea Jackson and I had a conference… she was right there just as clear as can be…,” said Etson. “Ordinarily, I’d have had to go to Vernon to see her… In this case, it was as though she was sitting in front of me and showing me exactly how to do that. Now that’s a really interesting thing, isn’t it?”

Jackson says she’s received a fabulous response from Sicamous, where seniors aren’t always able to drive long distances to get the medical services they need. Cost, she says, is also a huge factor, noting many people put off dealing with hearing loss to more pressing needs.

“They may not deem hearing as important as something else, when really, one of the first things it affects is the memory, and now it’s linked to dementia,” said Jackson. “And so there’s a lot of contributing factors to hearing loss that go untreated, that the general public isn’t aware of.”

Regarding Medeo, Jackson said she’s been using the program for about a year and a half, and she’s been approached by the Sicamous Seniors Centre to set it up on computers there.

“Juanita is my oldest person who was able to walk through that. She’s amazing. So it’s a huge support,” said Jackson.

With Dr. Rosemary Kelsall retiring and no longer serving Sicamous, Etson sees great potential for Medeo in the community and others dealing with doctor shortages.

“A patient may have  to ask about something that does not require a doctor’s visit at all, and you and the doctor can sit there and talk, and the doctor can say, ‘it’s nothing to worry about; things are going to be OK; or, ‘you should come in and see me.’ You can get a lot of that preamble done through this software on your computer…,” said Etson. “And it would be great for a lot of our seniors who don’t get out that easily, but may have access to a computer.”

For more information about NexGen, visit http://www.nexgenhearing.com.