In line with screening best practice, my business partner—audiologist Melissa Wilson—and I offer a hearing screening with every speech-language evaluation in our private practice. From the early planning stages, collaboration through joint evaluation has been the focus of our practice.
After some trial and error, we devised a fiscally smart system that provides a holistic snapshot of a child’s communication skills to their family.
So how does it work? When a family books an appointment at our clinic, we arrange for a joint evaluation to determine if hearing loss is a contributing factor to a speech-language delay. We schedule a 90-minute appointment involving the following steps:
- The evaluation occurs in a sound booth. My partner and I get the patient’s medical history, chief concern and basic developmental history to help the child become more familiar with the testing space and us. (10 minutes)
- I complete the speech-language evaluation while Melissa steps outside the booth to start the evaluation report and observe the child’s listening during testing. (50 minutes)
- I then act as test assistant for the hearing test. The child is usually more willing to accept headphones after a period of acclimation in the sound booth and getting comfortable working with us. I support Melissa while she takes objective measures from the child’s ears. This also helps my assessment, because I observe language and speech sounds as the child interacts with my partner. (25 minutes)
- Then we both meet with the family to discuss findings and to discuss a treatment plan and/or additional referrals if appropriate. (5 minutes)
- I complete the report, which my partner reviews prior to sending it to the family, physician and other parties involved in the patient’s care.
In 90 minutes, the family gets a clear picture of their child’s communication strengths and weaknesses, and a plan for next steps. This prevents the family from making two separate appointments at different locations and dates to obtain similar results. The added time and cost might also burden families. Some families also must perform a hearing test prior to speech-language evaluation, and wait times can be long. Our families are grateful for an opportunity to learn about their child’s communication skills at one time and place.
We know that not every audiologist and SLP can enjoy the type of collaborative relationship Melissa and I built, however we want to offer some ideas on how to create your own collaborative evaluations!
- Partner with a local audiologist or SLP to co-evaluate, discuss cases and cross-refer. Come to an agreement on report turnaround speed to be respectful of families’ time. You can use ASHA’s Pro Search or the AAA Audiologist Portal to find a partner.
- Check with your referring primary-care physician to make sure they perform hearing screenings. If they don’t, offer free or discounted screenings to their patients as a way to increase awareness, and catch issues early.
- Create a relationship with your school district’s educational audiologist to assist with screenings. Offer to meet with them or find ways to easily share reports for increased efficiency.
- Add in a quick questionnaire, screener or listening inventory to your protocol to see if patients need further speech, language or hearing evaluation. Some of our favorites include: