Small Business Administration (SBA)

Small Business Administration (SBA)

COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Updates


Week of April 2, 2021

One Year On: An Updated Systematic Review of SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, and Audio-Vestibular Symptoms

Data sourced from 56 studies mentioning auditory issues in people with confirmed coronavirus infections—points to side effects including tinnitus, vertigo, and difficulty hearing. Pooling figures from 24 of those studies, scientists found a nearly 15 percent prevalence of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and about a seven percent prevalence of hearing loss and vertigo, respectively.

The review relied mostly on COVID-19 patients’ medical records and their responses to questionnaires, and its authors called for both clinical and diagnostic studies to investigate the apparent link. Though the evidence is of varying quality, more and more studies are being carried out, so the evidence base is growing. Ibrahim Almufarrij, a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester, said in a statement. “What we really need are studies that compare COVID-19 cases with controls, such as patients admitted to hospital with other health conditions.”


Other News

Lack of National Eligibility System for COVID-19 Vaccine Has Produced a “Crazy Quilt” of State Rules

When the first vaccines were cleared for emergency use in December, nearly all states followed guidance from the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and restricted use to front-line health workers and nursing home staff, and residents. But, since then, states have gone their own way.

This article from Kaiser Health provides perspective on the disparate approaches to vaccine eligibility that exist from one state to another. Jody Gan, a professional lecturer in the health studies department at American University in Washington, DC, said the lack of a national eligibility system reflects how each state also makes its own rules on public health. “This hasn’t been a great system for keeping, you know, the virus contained,” she said.


Previous Updates

New Study Examines How Different Face Masks Affect Speech Recognition in Varying Levels of Background Noise

Researchers at Villanova University found that in low levels of background noise (for the purposes of recognizing spoken sentences immediately after presentation) face masks have a small effect related to speech production without a mask, and some masks have no effect. In high levels of background noise, the effects of different mask types become more apparent. Homemade cloth masks and N95 respirators had the largest impact on speech recognition while surgical masks had no effect.


Other News

Latest Federal COVID Relief Package Dedicates Funds for Vaccines, Schools, and Small Businesses

On March 11, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. This article from National Public Radio (NPR) provides additional details on this legislation.

The colossal bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, allocates money for vaccines, schools, small businesses and anti-poverty programs such as an expanded child tax credit that will mean new monthly payments to many parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to receive $7.5 billion to track, administer and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Another $46 billion will go toward diagnosing and tracing coronavirus infections, and $2 billion will go toward buying and distributing various testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Spread of the Coronavirus Across the Globe

This resource, provided by National Public Radio (NPR), explores how the number of coronavirus cases has shifted in different parts of the world over time. A series of charts show first a country-by-country comparison breakdown, while the next highlight the number of cases in select countries by region, and how cases have shifted over time.


Other News

Study Finds COVID-19 Associated Anxiety Enhances Tinnitus

A retrospective research design, collected from 188 tinnitus patients, was used to compare the clinical characteristics of tinnitus between the patients in 2020 under pandemic pressure and those from the matching period in 2019. A substantial increase in anxiety was seen in tinnitus subjects in 2020 in association with COVID-19 pandemic and was evident as a promoting factor to tinnitus.

Labeling COVID-19’s Long-Term Effects—What’s the Diagnosis?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical and non-medical literature, as well as social media, have been using descriptive terms that are describing the same problem but in different ways. But several terms not found in the early COVID-19 literature emerged in the summer of 2020 that described COVID-19 survivors who continued to report new or exacerbated medical issues possibly related to the COVID-19 virus.

Some of these labels included COVID long hauler, long COVID, chronic COVID syndrome, post-COVID syndrome and the non-medical term brain fog.

Study Examines Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Spoken Communication Environments of Children with Cochlear Implants

This study examined how lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic changed the spoken communication environments of children with cochlear implants, by comparing the sounds they were exposed to before and during the resulting closures of schools and nonessential businesses.
This cohort study found that children experienced a significant quieting of their worlds during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Decreases of approximately 10 percent in access to speech were particular to school-aged children, which translates to extensive loss of spoken communication that is essential for psychosocial, academic, and language development.

Vaccine Resources

Comparing the Vaccines Developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson

Johnson and Johnson will be applying for emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine later this week. This article provides updated information, comparing the two vaccines that have already been in use with the new product entering the market.

State-by-State COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard

This resource developed by Multistate Associates provides a state-by-state snapshot of each state’s COVID-19 vaccination plans and what phase or prioritization tier currently in place.

Other News

Audiology and Otology Guidance During COVID-19: A U.K. Guide

The document begins by stating that services should be offered in line with any local employer guidelines; however, a range of audiological services are recommended including face-to-face appointments as well as communication via digital communication (i.e., telephone, video, email).

A decision-making flow chart is provided to determine the need for face-to-face or digital appointments.  For more information, please see the full document.

NIH NeuroCOVID Project

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 NeuroDatabank-NeuroBioBank (The NeuroCOVID Project) has been initiated at NYU Langone Health.

Study to Investigate Long-Term Impact of COVID-19 on Hearing Loss

A major U.K. study is set to launch that will investigate the possible long-term impact of COVID-19 on hearing.

The one year study, led by researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and funded by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), The Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust (DCEPT), and The University of Manchester, will investigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on hearing in people who have received hospital treatment for the virus. It will be co-led by Professor Kevin Munro, Manchester BRC hearing health lead and professor of audiology at the University of Manchester and aims to estimate the number and severity of disorders related to COVID-19 in the United Kingdom.

 Other goals of the study include discovery of what parts of the auditory system might be affected, and exploring the association between these and other factors such as lifestyle, the presence of one or more additional conditions (comorbidities), and critical care interventions.


Vaccine Resources

Biden Administration Will Ship COVID-19 Vaccines Directly to Pharmacies

The Biden administration has announced that it will begin shipping about 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses a week directly to thousands of pharmacies in an attempt to address equity concerns and speed up the country's crucial inoculation effort.

The program will begin on February 11 on a limited basis, with vaccines sent to about 6,500 stores nationwide, Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters on Tuesday, February 2.

COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign: Where Does Your State Stand?

The biggest vaccination campaign in history is underway. More than 119 million doseshave been administered across 67 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. 

The latest rate was roughly 4.54 million doses a day. In the U.S., more Americans have now received at least one dose than have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. So far, 36.7 million doses have been given, according to a state-by-state tally. In the last week, an average of 1.34 million doses per day were administered. Bloomberg provides multiple data points demonstrating how the vaccination effort is advancing.

New Report Provides Analysis of Private-Payer Telehealth Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Center for Connected Health Policy has released a new report that examines private-payer telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines efforts taken by all major U.S. health insurance carriers to expand telehealth access during the pandemic. Specifically, the report looks at the expansion of telehealth-eligible services, cost-sharing waivers, pay parity, and changes made to out-of-network policies.

ONLINE FEATURE | COVID-19 in Cerumen—A Potential Source of Viral Spread of Patients Infected With SARS-CoV-2

Over the past 12 months, information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus (or COVID-19 as it is commonly known) continues to emerge. Despite limited published research, there is some emerging evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 can be found in the cerumen in about a third of newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients. Whether traces of the virus will be present in ‘long-haulers’ is still unknown and open for additional research.

Vaccine Resources

States Quickly Retool Strategies to Maximize Vaccination Coverage

Faced with limited vaccine supplies, a slow rollout of federal funds, and new federal guidelines allowing vaccination of those 65 and older, states face distribution challenges as they quickly evaluate which mass immunization practices are most effective.  

Every state is working to vaccinate populations identified in Phase 1A, including health-care workers and nursing home residents. This article from the National Academy for State Health Policy outlines challenges and emerging strategies state officials have identified to date in their efforts to vaccinate these populations. 

As COVID Vaccinations Begin, Questions About Eligibility and Access for Audiologists Remain

As states begin vaccination efforts, many members have questions about when audiologists, as health-care providers, will have access. This vaccination effort faces unprecedented challenges in terms of the order of magnitude, the complexity of the vaccine administration, and the limited supply of the product. States vary widely in how many of their received doses have been given out.

For additional information: access the vaccination plan for your state and determine if your state has defined “health-care workers.” If audiologists are not listed or the designation is not defined, contact your local and state health department to advocate for the inclusion of audiologists in this category. The Academy is also in the process of reaching out to state departments of health to encourage this change as well.


Other News

New Study Evaluates How Different Face Masks Affect the Acoustics of Speech

A new study published in  The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America examined how the different types of face masks affect the acoustics of speech. The study was lead by research Ryan Corey, an electrical and computer engineering postdoctoral researcher under professor Andrew Singer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and comprised of a team of testers.

New Israeli Study Suggests COVID-19 Does Not Damage Auditory System

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports in the professional literature on possible hearing loss caused by the disease. A new study from Tel Aviv University (TAU), in collaboration with the Galilee Medical Center, finds no evidence of damage to the auditory system as a result of COVID-19 infection. 

“Our study explored whether COVID-19 can cause permanent neural or sensory damage to the hearing system. We found no evidence for such damage,” says co-author Dr. Amiel Dror of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University. “We measured electrical data from the brainstem to test the entire route of soundwaves through the ear until electric waves are ultimately received in the brain. We also examined the activity of the inner ear hair cells that intensify and tune the sound. We found no difference between the COVID-19-positive subjects and the control group.” 

This study examined asymptomatic patients, but these researchers are currently conducting a much more comprehensive study with hundreds of patients, including persons who had been severely ill and even ventilated.


Other News

Food and Drug Administration Authorizes First Over-the-Counter Fully At-Home Diagnostic Test for COVID-19

On December 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first over-the-counter (OTC) fully at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19. This is the first test that does not require a prescription and does not require the sample to be submitted to a lab. 

FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, stated that “this authorization is a major milestone in diagnostic testing for COVID-19. By authorizing a test for over-the-counter use, the FDA allows it to be sold in places like drug stores, where a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes.”

White Paper Released on the Future of State Telehealth Policy

This white paper released by the National Governors Association summarizes the types of policy flexibilities provided by the states and the federal government around telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term considerations for Governors regarding the impact of such policies on care delivery and payment.

Key considerations include licensure, coverage, pairing payment policies and incentives, establishing policies that narrow the digital divide, encouraging interoperability of telehealth platforms, ensuring policies account for appropriate privacy protections, and engaging stakeholders.


State Resource

States Plan for Vaccinating their Populations Against COVID-19

States are finetuning their vaccine distribution plans as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appears poised to approve a vaccine. An analysis by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) finds that as of October, no two states have prioritized their populations in exactly the same way.

While most state allocation plans are informed by federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and/or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, many have enhanced their plans based on recommendations from their own advisory boards or equity committees. Factors include risk of acquiring the infection, severe morbidity and mortality, negative societal impact, and transmitting infection to others.

Week of December 4, 2020

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Publishes Interim Final Rule Confirming Practice Across State Lines for VA Health-Care Professionals

In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released an interim final rule allowing VA health-care professionals to practice across state lines beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency; as long as it is in accordance with the scope and requirements of their VA employment, regardless of state licensing requirements. 

Within the interim final rule, the VA explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted their need to exercise their statutory authority to allow VA health-care professionals to practice across state lines. Read the full article to learn more. 


Other News

New Resource Outlining Status of State Traveler Quarantine Orders, Guidance and Restrictions

The National Governors Association has released a document outlining the status of state and territory COVID-19 traveler quarantine orders, guidance, and restrictions. 

The purpose of this tracker is to share information about the status of orders/guidance and information related to types of restrictions, effective dates, applicability to visitors, potential penalties, and additional notes. The chart includes links to current orders/guidance.

Occupational Health and Safety: Eight Tips for Hearing Testing Day

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for industrial sanitation has never been more important. In attempts to reduce the virus transmission, ensure testing procedures are closely adhering to CDC and OSHA guidelines and regulations.

Temperature checks should be a requirement before testing, and face masks should be worn by all testing staff and employee participants. Test administrators should also wear masks, gloves and even full-body protective covering. The goal is to allow you to continue with compliance testing while keeping employees and testers as safe as possible from viral infection.

Week of November 20, 2020

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Authorizes First COVID-19 Test for Self-Testing/Rapid Response at Home

On November 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test for rapid result self-testing at home. 

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular (real-time loop mediated amplification reaction) single-use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. The test is currently authorized for prescription use only.

Stay-at-Home Orders Cut Noise Exposure Nearly in Half

Researchers at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Apple Inc. looked at noise exposure data from volunteer Apple Watch users in Florida, New York, California, and Texas. The analysis, one of the largest to date, included more than a half million daily noise levels measured before and during the pandemic.

Daily average sound levels dropped approximately three decibels during the time that local governments made announcements about social distancing and issued stay-at-home orders in March and April, compared to January and February. 

Week of November 13, 2020

New Study Finds that COVID-19 Could Be Making Tinnitus Worse

Published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, research found that 40 percent of those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 simultaneously experience a worsening of their tinnitus. 

Although the study focused on people with pre-existing tinnitus, a small number of participants also reported that their condition initially was triggered by developing COVID-19 symptoms, suggesting that tinnitus could be a “long COVID” symptom in some cases. 

CDC Releases Study on COVID-Related Hospital Readmissions

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published on November 9 found that after discharge from an initial COVID-19 hospitalization, 9 percent of patients were readmitted to the same hospital within two months. Multiple readmissions also occurred in 1.6 percent of patients. 

Risk factors for readmission included being older than 65 years of age, the presence of certain chronic conditions, prior hospitalization within three months of the first COVID-19 hospitalization, and discharge to a skilled nursing facility or to home health care. 

Understanding the frequency of, and potential reasons for, readmission after a COVID-19 hospitalization can inform clinical practice, discharge disposition decisions, and public health priorities, such as health-care resource planning.


Other News

American Medical Association (AMA) Announces CPT Codes for COVID-19 Immunizations

Working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the AMA’s Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Editorial Panel has approved a unique CPT code for each of the two coronavirus vaccines, as well as administration codes unique to each such vaccine. 

The new CPT codes clinically distinguish each coronavirus vaccine for better tracking, reporting, and analysis that supports data-driven planning and allocation. The CPT codes are available prior to the public availability of the vaccines to facilitate the updating of health-care electronic systems across the United States.

Week of November 6, 2020

Our Essential Role in Communication and Hearing Health Care

While October was National Audiology Awareness Month, it continues to be an important time to highlight our essential role in communication and hearing health care.
With this in mind, we have developed information pieces and resources you can use with your patients and/or share with your communities, colleagues, and other health-care providers as you see fit.


Other News and Resources

Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Development

The National Governors Association has created a high-level summary of national efforts to spur development and accelerated development processes for the vaccine. This includes information on COVID-19 vaccine candidates in advanced stages of development and efforts underway in other countries.

States Submit Draft COVID-19 Vaccination Plans to CDC

States across the country have submitted COVID-19 vaccination plans to be reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

States were asked to consider many different items including public health preparedness, phased approaches to vaccination, identification of critical populations, provider recruitment, vaccine storage and handling, and capacity to administer.

The Council of State Governments has created an interactive map that will allow you to access your state’s current vaccination plan.

Week of October 30, 2020

Significant Changes to Health-Care System Likely in a Post-COVID Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps and flaws in the current health-care system that will spur widespread changes in areas of telehealth, value-based care, health system consolidation, supply chain dynamics, and racial and ethnic disparities.


Other News and Resources

Value-Based Care Will Require a Mix of Telehealth and In-Person Visits

To provide the most effective care for patients, providers should consider a mix of both telehealth and in-person visits. 

Post-Pandemic Changes in Clinical Supervision

Clinical supervision is an important component of graduate student education that should be a rewarding experience for both student and preceptor. Clinical placement sites have a responsibility to ensure preparedness of graduating student externs. The audiology department at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City shares the framework of their student program, which aims to support students in the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertain future.

Week of October 23, 2020

Updated Report on COVID-Related State Actions on Telehealth

The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) has released an updated report on the status of temporary actions taken by states regarding telehealth in response to the pandemic. This resource provides an update on the changes that states have taken to remove policy barriers regarding the use of telehealth services. This resource includes a list of state actions taken by each state’s Office of the Governor, Medicaid Program, Medical Board and/or Department of Insurance, and their current status.


Other Resources

CDC Releases COVID Vaccine Information and FAQs

On October 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added vaccine information to its COVID-19 webpage. The new content includes what health-care providers should know about U.S. vaccination plans, how the CDC makes vaccination recommendations, and answers to frequently asked questions. 

State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Fall 2020

In October, the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) released its semi-annual State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies report, which offers the nation’s most current summary guide of Medicaid provider manuals, applicable state laws, and telehealth-related regulations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This report serves as a vital resource for policymakers, health-care professionals, and health advocates on how each state defines, governs, and regulates technology-enabled health care.

Week of October 16, 2020

COVID-19 “Long-Haulers:” The Emergence of Auditory/Vestibular Problems After Medical Intervention

The auditory-vestibular side effects of any illness, or from a pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, noise, or trauma, as well as any psychogenic component, will always be a concern for audiologists. With COVID-19, it is still too early to predict auditory-vestibular side effects, although several studies have attempted to do so or at least guide us in our short and long-term management.


Other Resources and Updates

Small Business Administration Announces Simplified Forgiveness Process for PPP Loans Less Than $50,000

The Small Business Administration (SBA) in consultation with the Treasury Department have released a simplified forgiveness process and form for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans less than $50,000. The simplified form released  Thursday, October 8,2020, cuts the application’s size down from five pages to two, and removes most questions aimed at ensuring the loans were used for the program’s intended purposes of supporting payrolls and covering other fixed costs.

The PPP was established as part of the $2 trillion economic rescue package enacted in March to expedite loans to small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The program relied on banks and other financial institutions to process and fund the loans, using a simplified SBA application form that skipped the usual due diligence lenders perform before lending.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Found Following Successful Treatment of COVID Infection

On October 13, 2020, The British Medical Journal published a case report of a patient that experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss after being successfully treated for COVID-19. Researchers report that the patient was not treated with any ototoxic medications.

Week of October 9, 2020

HHS Announces New Round of Provider Relief Funds

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is announcing $20 billion in new funding for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. 

FDA Launches New COVID Vaccine Webpage

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently launched a COVID-19 vaccine webpage designed to highlight new information as it becomes available.

Week of October 2, 2020

Post-Coronavirus Labor Market Should Remove Barriers to Occupational License Portability

A recent article published by the American Consumer Institute indicates that removing existing barriers to license mobility will be important in the economic recovery effort following the pandemic. 

Historical experience, as well as academic research, suggest that the economic ravages of the coronavirus crisis will partly manifest themselves through an uptick in interstate migration.  

With jobs scarce and thousands of businesses shuttered, more workers will be willing to move in search of opportunity. One way that states can facilitate job mobility is to join multi-state licensure compacts to help mitigate barriers to interstate mobility without sacrificing quality or safety.  

The Academy is currently active in efforts to implement and operationalize the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Licensure Compact (ASLP-IC). Once 10 states have passed implementing legislation, the licensure compact will become operational.  

The Changing Face of Health-Care Post Pandemic

An article published by the  National Law Review finds that as a result of the pandemic the U.S. health-care system will experience long lasting changes in the areas of digital health, health-care delivery, and health insurance and coverage, regulatory flexibility, and transparency.


Other Resources 

Does Coronavirus Affect the Audio-Vestibular System? A Rapid Systemic Review

Reports of audio-vestibular symptoms in confirmed COVID-19 cases are few, with mostly minor symptoms, and the studies are of poor quality. Emphasis over time is likely to shift from life-threatening concerns to longer-term health-related consequences such as audio-vestibular dysfunction. High-quality studies are needed to investigate the acute effects of COVID-19, as well as for understanding long-term risks, on the audio-vestibular system. 

Persistent Self-Reported Changes in Hearing and Tinnitus In Post-Hospitalization COVID-19 Cases

More than 1 in 10 COVID-19 adults report a change in their hearing status, when questioned eight weeks after discharge from hospital. As mentioned in our systematic review, there is a need for high-quality studies to investigate the acute and temporary effects of COVID-19, as well as longstanding risks on the audio-vestibular system. Timely evidence is required by decision-makers on this urgent and emergent health issue. Following up COVID-19 patients will probably teach us a lot about the long-term consequences of this destructive disease.

Week of September 25, 2020

Face Masks and Hearing Loss: Tips to Help Make Communications Easier

Wearing a mask can be challenging for everyone. But for the 48 million Americans who experience some form of hearing loss, it can be particularly fraught. 

Could Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Be the Sole Manifestation of COVID-19?

This study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases examines the presence of COVID-19 in patients presenting with only sudden sensorineural hearing loss during the current pandemic.

Technology Divide Between Senior “Haves” and “Have-Nots” Roils Pandemic Response

Kaiser Health News has found that while technology has provided seniors with critical access to health care and related services, those impacted by hearing or vision loss, dementia, or simply unable to navigate technology, are being left behind.

Week of September 18, 2020

White Paper Outlines Recommendations to Safeguard the Future of Telehealth

The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy released a final report on Tuesday, September 15, outlining its findings and recommendations around safeguarding the future of telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force, which was convened by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Alliance for Connected Care, and the American Telemedicine Association, represented a broad spectrum of stakeholders who spent the summer building consensus around the challenges and opportunities for virtual care. 

The white paper recommends that policymakers should make permanent the following specific COVID-19 policy changes:

  • Lifting geographic restrictions and limitations on originating sites.
  • Allowing telehealth for various types of clinicians and conditions.
  • Acknowledging, as many states now do, that telehealth visits can meet requirements for establishing a clinician/patient relationship if the encounter meets appropriate care standards or unless careful analysis demonstrates that, in specific situations, a previous in-person relationship is necessary.
  • Eliminating unnecessary restrictions on telehealth across state lines.

Other Resources 

HHS/CDC Release COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control recently released a joint COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. This strategy document envisions a centralized distribution plan by the federal government, states and territories, tribes, industry partners and other stakeholders. 

COVID-19 and Vulnerable Population with Communication Disorders

This recent article explores the challenges to individuals with hearing loss of different ages amid the on-going COVID pandemic.

Week of September 11, 2020

Unraveling the Invisible but Harmful Impact of COVID-19 on Deaf Older Adults and Older Adults with Hearing Loss

The invisible but deleterious impact of COVID-19 on health increases previously accumulated health disparities among older adults. Compared to hearing older adults, deaf older adults and older adults with hearing loss may be at higher risk for adverse COVID-related outcomes. 

Overcoming Barriers to Care for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Patients During COVID-19

To protect clinicians and patients, institutions mandated personal protective equipment for everyone, implemented visitation restrictions that bar visitors from assisting their loved ones in medical settings, and eliminated in-person medical interpreters. These safeguards jeopardize the ability of the 17 percent of all U.S. adults with a hearing loss to effectively communicate with their clinicians, thus impeding their quality of care.


Other News 

Major Drug Manufacturers Plan Joint Statement to Bolster Public Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccine

Drug manufacturers that are typically fierce industry rivals plan to issue a public pledge not to seek government approval until vaccines have been proven safe and effective.

State Lawmakers Across the Country Introduce Legislation to Address Budgetary and Fiscal Impact of COVID-19

The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) has created a resource to track the rapidly increasing list of proposed legislation to address the budgetary and fiscal impact of the pandemic. 

Week of September 4, 2020

Conversations on COVID-19: Impacts on Communities of Color

While much is still unknown about the virus causing the current pandemic, according to data from the CDC, we do know that certain populations—African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and the elderly, to name a few—are bearing the brunt of infections and deaths.


Other Resources 

Health-Care Providers Recalibrate Telehealth Resources as Patients Return for In-Office Visits

Telehealth visits accounted for 21 percent of all patient encounters in July, which was down significantly from 69 percent in mid-April—according to Epic, the electronic health records company. Health-care providers and facilities are now trying to “right size” the proportion of telehealth visits and carefully determine which clinical services should be provided in person.

List of At-Home COVID Test Vendors with FDA Emergency Use Authorization

The Kaiser Family Foundation has created an interactive table listing the vendors that are selling at-home COVID tests that have received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration. These tests allow for at-home sample collection to be mailed in for analysis. To date, the FDA has not approved any test that is used and processed at home. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act require private insurers, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and CHIP to cover COVID tests (without cost-sharing) if the test has received EUA or is FDA approved. 

Federation of American Scientists Website Provides Answers to Any/All Coronavirus Questions

The Federation of American Scientists, in partnership with the NYUGovLab, has developed a website that automatically populates answers to common coronavirus-related questions, and if there isn’t an answer to the question, prompts an option to email a list of over 600 scientists affiliated with the National Science Policy Network who will provide evidence-based answers.

Week of August 28, 2020

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs.

COVID-19’s Impact on the AuD Student Clinician Experience

Now more than ever, infection control is one of the most widely discussed topics in any health-care environment. Infection control guidelines are changing rapidly, affecting the student clinician experience.

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings.


Advocacy Updates 

Progressive Policy Institute and Americans for Prosperity Issue Joint White Paper on Telehealth

The Progressive Policy Institute and Americans for Prosperity jointly issued a white paper on telehealth, which outlines recent federal, state, private-payer, and provider-policy actions, and lists policies Congress should make permanent. In addition, the white paper also lists other actions states should take to increase patient access to care. One of these recommendations encourages states to recognize health-care licenses from other states or enter into interstate licensing compacts to increase patient access to services.

University of Michigan Institute for Health-Care Policy and Innovation Release Results of Poll of Older Americans on Telehealth

A new poll on telemedicine use by older adults in the period from March to June 2020 finds that previous concerns over privacy and telehealth are significantly lower, seniors feel more comfortable with video-conferencing technologies and adoption of telemedicine is substantially higher compared to 2019. View the article and survey data

New Resource Provides Information on All COVID-19 Vaccines Currently in Development

The pandemic has exposed major weaknesses in the U.S. health-care system including inadequate insurance coverage, racial and ethnic disparities in the health-care system, and a serious crisis in public health. These flaws are exacerbated by the financial losses health-care providers are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

Week of August 21, 2020

COVID-19’s Impact on the AuD Student Clinician Experience

Now more than ever, infection control is one of the most widely discussed topics in any health-care environment. Infection control guidelines are changing rapidly, affecting the student clinician experience.

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings. Although there was an initial shortage and concerns about meeting global demands, we have witnessed, in a short period, rapid production of various types of masks and shields intended for use by either the public or health workers, including masks with clear (transparent) windows.


Resources and Updates 

New Resource Provides Information on How Fast Virus Is Spreading in Each Locale

This daily updated resource provides information on Rt—the reproduction rate of the virus in a certain area. This information is used to predict the number of secondary infections likely to occur from contact with a known infected individual. If the Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When the Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.

Small Buyers Still Experiencing Delays in Accessing Masks and Protective Gear

At the height of summer, temperatures climb to nearly 100 degrees most days in Pharr, a small city in South Texas. Nonetheless, nurse practitioner Oralia Martinez and her staff have set up a temporary exam room outside her small clinic. This is their way of preserving masks and other personal protective equipment as they treat COVID-19 patients in the Rio Grande Valley, where infections are spiking. 

New Resource Provides Information on All COVID-19 Vaccines Currently in Development

Researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts estimate that a fast-tracked vaccine development process could speed a successful candidate to market in approximately 12-18 months—if the process goes smoothly from conception to market availability.

Week of August 14, 2020

Congressional Leaders Request Next COVID Package Include Relief for Providers Facing 2021 Medicare Cuts

Lawmakers sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling on any upcoming legislation that moves through the House to waive budget neutrality for 2021 and 2022 for the emergency and management code set scheduled for implementation on January 2021.

COVID Tracking Project Provides Daily 50-State Testing and Outcomes Data

The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer organization launched from The Atlantic and dedicated to collecting and publishing the data required to understand the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Data is collected every day on testing and patient outcomes in all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.


New Resources—Small Businesses 

Managing a Small Business During COVID-19

Intuit has created extensive resources to support small businesses across the country including a virtual town hall series on “Connecting Small Businesses with the Experts” as well as comprehensive guides on re-opening and federal relief programs.

Programs and Support Resource Guide from McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company has created an online collection of tools, interactive visuals, interviews with leaders, and practical resources to help U.S. small business owners and their communities respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Webinar Series: Business on the Road to Recovery

Comcast has created an on-demand webinar series focusing on keeping business moving amid disruption. Topics include telehealth, financial services, and supply chain logistics.


Other Resources

HHS Extends Application Deadline for Financial Relief Medicaid Providers until August 28, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has extended the application deadline for Medicaid providers for Phase 2 financial relief distribution until August 28, 2020. 

Week of August 7, 2020

Considerations in the Search for Transparent Face Coverings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of COVID-19 and broad mandates to wear face coverings, there are numerous local, state, and national conversations regarding communication access for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) in school, hospital, and public settings. Although there was an initial shortage and concerns about meeting global demands, we have witnessed, in a short period, rapid production of various types of masks and shields intended for use by either the public or health workers, including masks with clear (transparent) windows and face shields. 

The major problem is that typical masks (cloth or medical) present an obvious visual barrier to those who depend on nonverbal communication cues on the face (e.g., mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, and cheeks) (Gardino et al 2008; Atcherson et al, 2017; Atcherson and Finley, 2019; Elby et al., 2020; Baltimore and Atcherson, 2020). Learn more…

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists. Learn more…


Advocacy Updates and Resources

Study Shows that a Quarter of Medicare Beneficiaries are Unable to Access Telehealth Visits

Two studies published in the JAMA Journal of Internal Medicine shows a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries are unable to access telehealth services due to a lack of access to either high-speed internet services or a cellphone with a wireless data plan.

Council of State Governments (CSG) Posts Compilation of COVID-19 Data Prediction Models

CSG has compiled COVID-19 data prediction models from MIT, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Imperial College of London and Northwestern University.

Week of July 31, 2020

It's Not Too Late to Register!

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

  • Academy members: $99
  • Student: Free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey

Advocacy Update

AHA, AMA, and ANA Urge Public to Wear Masks

The American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) released a public service announcement (PSA) today (July 31) urging the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. 

CMS Releases New Hospital Codes for COVID-19 Drug Therapies

CMS announced on July 30 that, starting August 1, new treatment codes will allow Medicare and other insurers to track the use of Gilead’s remdesivir and convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

New Resources from CMS

CMS has released the Medicare COVID-19 Data Snapshot Fact Sheet that provides information about people with Medicare who are diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Turnaround Time for COVID-19 Testing Decreases

The Trump Administration reports that COVID-19 testing turnaround has improved with 56 percent of test results returned within three days.

State Use of Funds From CARES Act

The online interactive graphic on state Coronovirus Relief Funds is searchable by state and category, such as health, small business relief education, and more.

U.S. Cases Up Amidst Record-Breaking Economic News

Bloomberg News reports that the US cases of COVID-19 increased 1.9 percent in one day on Thursday to reach 4.47 million cases.

Coding and Reimbursement: Telehealth

In the era of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to use different methods of clinical service provision to protect our patients’ health while still addressing their hearing, tinnitus, and vestibular health-care needs. 

As audiology clinics increase their use of telehealth as a method for patient care, audiologists must understand how such changes also impact coding and billing. This article will discuss considerations and provide examples of billing and coding for telehealth services for audiologists. Learn more… 

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

  • Academy members: $99
  • Student: Free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey

Advocacy Update

HHS Officially Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On July 23, HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, announced the official renewal of the COVID-19 public health emergency for another 90 days. Many health-care professionals had expressed concern about the expiration of the initial emergency determination that was set to expire on July 25. The issuance of a public health emergency ensures the continuation of a myriad of regulatory waivers, particularly those pertaining to telepractice.

State-by-State Guide to Face Mask Requirements

AARP has created a guide to state face mask requirements. Now more than 30 states have implemented some type of requirement.

Week of July 17, 2020

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus.

Presentations include:

  • Prioritizing Tele-Audiology for COVID-19 and Beyond
  • Tele-Audiology in the VA
  • Telehealth Support by Audiology Services with Hybrid Online and
  • Face-to-Face Care
  • IDA Telecare Tools
  • It’s Not the Technology, It’s What You Do with the Technology
  • Hearing Aid Fittings: Finding New Ways to Work with Patients
  • Uptake of Remote Hearing Aid Support Services
  • Practical Solutions for Assessment and Intervention in Tele-Audiology 

Academy member registration is only $99…Student registration is free, thanks to the generous support from Starkey.


Advocacy Update

Infographic Highlights Growth of Telehealth By Private Insurers During COVID

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) has released a new infographic demonstrating the explosive growth of telehealth by private insurers during the COVID health-care crisis.

State Actions to Close COVID-Related Budget Shortfalls

The Council of State Governments has created a new database to track both budget-cutting and revenue-producing actions of state governments, as they attempt to recover and rebuild in the wake of devastating financial effects caused by the COVID crisis.

Week of July 10, 2020

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020—Register Now! Tele-Audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET

Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

Student registration is free, thanks to the generous support provided by Starkey.

Advocacy Update

Council of State Governments (CSG) Issues Update on Status/Delays of State Legislative Sessions in Response to COVID

Governors in all 50 states delivered a letter to the administration requesting the renewal of the COVID 19 public health emergency, set to expire on July 25. The issuance of a federal public health emergency would ensure continued funding for the uninsured and ensure that federal and state regulatory flexibilities remain available.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Encourage Administration to Make Telehealth Expansion and Flexibilities Permanent

Over 35 senators signed on to a letter to HHS asking that the agency work and dialogue with Congress in terms of any future changes to the availability of telehealth services in Medicare. In addition, the bipartisan group of senators encouraged the administration to work with Congress to ensure that the current expansion of telehealth remain in place even after the COVID crisis subsides.

Summary of Public Heath Criteria in State Re-Opening Plans

This chart compiled by the National Governors Association outlines the public health criteria being utilized in each state’s re-opening plan.

Week of June 26, 2020

Academy Signs On to Multi-Stakeholder Letter Urging Recent Telehealth Changes Remain Permanent

The Academy signed on to a multi-stakeholder letter to House and Senate leadership urging action to avoid the telehealth “cliff” at the end of the public health emergency and make permanent expanded access to telehealth services in Medicare. In addition, the letter urges Congress to ensure that HHS has the authority to add new providers to the list of eligible telehealth providers as well as to add new services as needed.

Treatment and Management Resources and Information 

Advocacy Update

Council of State Governments (CSG) Issues Update on Status/Delays of State Legislative Sessions in Response to COVID

Many state legislatures have had to alter their regularly scheduled sessions in response to the COVID-19 health-care crisis. This resource provided by the Council of State Governments provides updates on where each state stands with regard to scheduling and planned changes.

Week of June 19, 2020

Newborn Hearing Screenings and Follow-Up: Essential During a Pandemic?

Learn more about the implications of the COVID-19 response on children who were born during the time when in-person health-care services were limited, focusing specifically on newborn hearing screening (NBHS) and follow-up services for infants identified with potential hearing loss.

Dietary Supplements Used for COVID-19 Treatment

Along with other professionals, audiologists must also be vigilant in their patient care—especially during their case history review—to counsel their patients about the extremely limited safety and efficacy information about dietary supplements as it pertains to COVID-19.

Telehealth

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

eAudiology On-Demand FREE Web Seminar (free through June 30)
Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 AAA/Tier 1 CEUs)

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, and private payers have varying approaches to the issue. This webinar covers a brief overview of the overall regulatory landscape in these settings.

New Resource Detailing State Actions on Telehealth

The Center for Connected Health Policy has released a resource detailing the actions taken by states with regard to telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This state-by-state document outlines the changes made to occupational licensing, state Medicaid programs, state insurance regulations, as well as directives from state Governors.

Other Resources

New Legislation to Assist Small Businesses Hardest Hit by COVID-19

Democratic members of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee announced plans to introduce legislation, the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Act, that would provide new funding to businesses with 100 employees or less including sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals. 

Council of State Governments (CSG) Outlines State Policy Changes to Occupational Licensing

CSG has created a document outlining the changes each state has made with regard to occupational licensing. These changes are intended to respond to workforce shortages or address attainment or maintenance of licensure.

Week of June 12, 2020

National Audiology Associations Team Up to Request Removal of the Medicare Physician Order Requirement

The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), the American Academy of Audiology (the Academy), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) sent a joint letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requesting the removal of the Medicare physician order requirement.

Telehealth

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice

August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

eAudiology On-Demand FREE Web Seminar (free through June 30)
Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 AAA/Tier 1 CEUs)

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, and private payers have varying approaches to the issue. This webinar covers a brief overview of the overall regulatory landscape in these settings.

Other Resources

Week of June 5, 2020

President’s Message: Health-Care Changes and Tele-Audiology—Our Focus on the Future


A crisis often shines a light on what is essential, and it has been clear that audiologists’ services in communication and balance are essential. A crisis provides a time to show patients and policymakers that audiologists are experts in this area.

The Academy needs to focus on the changes that are happening in health care related to this crisis and formalize them and move them into the future to support audiologists’ ability to have accessible and appropriate care for patients.

Virtual Academy Research Conference (ARC) 2020 
Tele-audiology: Theory to Practice
August 6, 10:00 am–5:00 pm ET


Leading experts in tele-audiology will share translational and applied research with a strong clinical focus. This meeting will consider the changing role of technology, patient engagement, and service-delivery in audiological care during COVID-19 and beyond.

Chaired by De Wet Swanepoel, PhD, professor, University of Pretoria, the program will feature a range of timely topics divided into the themes of the patient journey, assessment and intervention, and support and rehabilitation.

Advocacy

Other Resources

 

Week of May 29, 2020

Our Essential Role in Communication: Resources That Can Help

It is an important time to continue to highlight our essential role in communication and hearing health care. With this in mind, we have developed information pieces and resources you can use with your patients and/or share with your communities, colleagues, and other health-care providers as you see fit. 

Safety and Treatment Resources

New Resources

National Governor’s Association (NGA) Summary of State Actions on Business Re-Openings (Updated May 27, 2020)
This resource from the National Governor’s Association provides the most up-to-date information on actions states have taken to reopen those business sectors previously restricted, deemed non-essential and/or required to close.

New Poll Finds Medicare Advantage Members Have Favorable Impression of Telehealth
A new survey sponsored by the Better Medicare Alliance finds that Medicare Advantage patients had favorable experiences with services provided via telehealth.

CDC Interim Guidance to Businesses and Employers on Mitigating COVID-19 Risk
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance to businesses and employers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NIH Seeks Industry Input to Design Digital Contact Tracing Tool

The National Institutes of Health is seeking recommendations from companies on how to build a phone app or other digital tool to collect data and provide coronavirus information to the public while maintaining adequate privacy protections. The office issued a request for information to explore whether industry partners could develop a contact tracing tool that would also monitor the health of people who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, link people to trials for therapeutics or preventative medicines, assess if individuals are ready to return to work, and calculate risks of infection.

Week of May 15, 2020

Our Essential Role in Communication: Resources That Can Help

With May as Better Hearing Month, this is an important time to continue to highlight our essential role in communication and hearing health care. With this in mind, we have developed informational pieces and resources you can use with your patients and/or share with your communities, colleagues, and other health-care providers as you see fit.

Best Practices Guidelines for Safely Conducting Hearing Testing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This best practices document offers guidelines that are applicable to busy hearing conservation practices that use multiple test stations within an audiometric booth, as well as those using single-person booths. The document was prepared by NHCA, with participation of the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation and several knowledgeable occupational medicine specialists, to minimize the risk of SARS CoV-2 infection through person-to-person spread within occupational health clinics, company in-house testing, and mobile test environments.

New Resources

New Resource Compiles Results of Recent Patient and Provider Telehealth Surveys 

The Alliance for Connected Care has created a resource that compiles the results of seven recent surveys of patients, providers, and consumers on their experiences with and perceptions of telehealth. 

Interactive Map Provides Information on COVID-19-Related State Legislation 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has created a resource that compiles all of the COVID-19-related legislation introduced to date. At least 38 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have introduced legislation to support state action related to COVID-19. Several resolutions adjourn legislative sessions or adopt temporary rules to allow governing bodies to meet or vote electronically. 

CMS Provides Comprehensive COVID-19 Toolkit for Providers and Patients 

CMS has created a comprehensive COVID-19 toolkit for providers and patients. This online resource provides one-stop access to all of the materials that HHS/CMS has created on the topic to date.

Take Action

Encourage Your Elected Officials to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation
On March 30, CMS announced that it would allow certain allied health-care care services to be paid for as Medicare telehealth services. However, audiologists and audiology services were not included in this list.

Email your representatives today on the Academy's Legislative Action Center.

Week of May 8, 2020

Re-Opening in a Post-COVID World

Re-opening your audiology practice after the COVID-19 pandemic can be both exciting and stressful for you and your patients. Being able to offer audiological services in a safe manner will be a step in the right direction to achieving our “new normal,” will reinstate some form of revenue for your practice, and most importantly, will bring much-needed service back to your patients who rely on their hearing to stay in touch with their family and friends, now more than ever.

Audiological Management of COVID-19 Survivors Treated with Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin

Audiologists have known about the ototoxicity of quinine (and its derivatives) and antibiotics (macrolide and aminoglycoside) for decades. But we have never seen the combined use of two drugs, each with known ototoxic potential, being used as an intervention strategy for the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Telehealth Information

National Governors Association Memo to Governors: “Strategies for Telehealth”

To date, all 50 states have taken action to increase access to services via telehealth. This memo to all state governors highlights some of the innovative approaches that have been employed including eliminating cost sharing requirements for telehealth services, waiving professional licensure requirements and mandating payment parity for services delivered via telehealth. 

Introduced Federal Legislation: COVID-19 Telehealth Bills

The Alliance for Connected Care has compiled a list of federal telehealth legislation that has been introduced to date in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Articles and Items of Interest

New Resources

FEMA Factsheet on PPE Preservation Best Practices

This guidance summarizes best practices for national implementation to sustain PPE while protecting workers during the pandemic response.  This fact sheet also amplifies CDC strategy on conventional, contingency and crisis capacity strategy for optimizing PPE. 

Obtaining PPE from Amazon: Latest News and Update

The Academy has heard from a number of members who have reported that Amazon Business does not recognize them as health-care providers for the purposes of purchasing supplies in bulk. The Academy spoke with an Amazon representative who indicated that the types of health-care providers recognized for the purposes of an Amazon business account in general varies from state to state and is based on state regulations. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, health-care practitioners in receipt of any valid state issued health-care license are eligible to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE). On the Amazon Business website, select the “COVID-19 Supplies on Amazon Business” tab. That will then take you through the process to set up a free Amazon business account and will request the individual’s NPI number.

MultiState COVID-19 State Reopening Guide

States have shifted the focus of their COVID-19 response from managing the public health crisis to the economic recovery phase. States have started allowing certain businesses to open, and most have announced plans for a phased reopening of the economy. Since each state’s degree of “openness” is determined by many factors, and because each state handled pandemic response differently, MultiState has developed a guide to condense these factors into one easy-to-understand “openness score” that allows you to compare states to one another. 

Week of May 1, 2020

President's Message: COVID-19—Planning for In-Person Care

Our goal is targeted, safe reintroduction of in-person care. None of us have any experience with this, none of us have had to shut down in a matter of days and then figure out how to re-open gradually. We have to stay in business, and we have to do it in a world that presents challenges that none of us have ever faced.

CMS Expands List of Medicare Eligible Telehealth Providers to Include Audiologists

On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final regulation that states that, all professionals who are able to bill Medicare for their professional services will be considered eligible telehealth providers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Though not named specifically in the CMS Fact Sheet or Press Release, it is our interpretation of the regulation that audiologists are considered eligible providers of telehealth services.


Telehealth Education and Information

Tele-audiology in a Pandemic and Beyond: Flexibility and Suitability in Audiology Practice ( Audiology Today, Jul/Aug 2020 Pre-Press)

Professional Liability and Tele-audiology Services ( Hearing Review, April 23, 2020)


New Resources

COVID-19: Moving Toward Full Audiology Services

Next COVID-19 Relief Package Likely to Provide Relief for States and Localities

Large Company CEOs Advocate for Consistent Guidelines for Returning to Work

Treasury Department Releases Updated FAQ (4-29) for Paycheck Protection Program 

COVID-19: Considerations for Treatment Using Quinine Derivatives and Other Ototoxic Compounds

Hydroxychloroquine was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use to treat adults and adolescents with COVID-19.

Research supporting use of these agents for treatment of COVID-19 is currently limited to a few small samples with contradictory findings. In addition, optimal dosing strategies remain unknown. The FDA has released a fact sheet to help understand the findings. 

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are synthetic derivatives of quinine. Quinine and its derivatives have a long history as anti-malarial and for treatment of autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Review the historical commentary.

Read more…


New Resources

Administration Launches New Toolkit to Help States Navigate COVID-19 Health Workforce Challenges  

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) released a new toolkit to help state and local healthcare decision makers maximize workforce flexibilities when confronting 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in their communities.  

Academy Requests Congress Suspend Expected Medicare Cuts Associated with Increase in E/M Code Reimbursement 

The Academy along with multiple physician and allied health groups signed on to a letter to congressional leaders requesting that they take action to suspend expected cuts to Medicare reimbursement in 2021. 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) To Receive An Additional Influx of Cash


Telehealth Education and Information

New HHS Website on Telehealth for Providers and Patients

Free Access
eAudiology Webinar: Supporting Patients at a Distance—Telehealth Now and in the Future (0.1 CEUs/Tier 1) 
May 1, 3:00 pm ET

Free Access
Seminars in Hearing Humanitarian Issue (May 2020)

Seminars in Hearing Article: eHealth Technologies Enable more Accessible Hearing Care (April 2020)

Week of April 17, 2020

eAudiology Telehealth Webinar—Register Today

Supporting Patients at a Distance: Telehealth Now and in the Future
May 1, 3:00 pm ET

The COVID-19 health-care crisis has intensified interest in the provision of audiology services via telehealth. State licensing boards, Medicaid programs, private payers, and Medicare have varying approaches to the telehealth and this webinar will provide an overview of these settings. Learn more about the Academy’s efforts to secure inclusion of audiologists in telehealth provisions under Medicare, an outline of the Academy Coding and Reimbursement Committee’s guidance on telehealth and reimbursement options, and member experiences in transitioning audiology practices to telehealth.  


COVID-19-Related State Executive Orders/Telehealth
The Council of State Governments has created a resource that provides access to all state executive orders issued to date on a wide range of topics. You can search this document by state to or by classification/subject area. Of particular note, under the classification tab, you may scroll down and access all of the state telehealth-related executive orders issued to date. 

Guidance for Businesses from Each State Chamber of Commerce
Many state chambers of commerce have created webpages dedicated to the COVID-19 impact and response and specific guidance for in-state businesses. The Council of State Chambers of Commerce has compiled links to all of the dedicated COVID-19 webpages from each of the individual state chambers of commerce. 


Take Action

Encourage Your Elected Officials to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation
On March 30, CMS announced that it would allow certain allied health-care care services to be paid for as Medicare telehealth services. However, audiologists and audiology services were not included in this list.

Email your representatives today on the Academy's Legislative Action Center.

Week of April 10, 2020

Encourage Your Legislator to Support Inclusion of Medicare Audiology Provisions in Future COVID-19 Legislation

Congress is now working on crafting another COVID-19 relief package to follow up on the CARES Act passed last week. Congress and the Administration have taken many steps to expand the health-care workforce and remove barriers to providing services via telehealth.

However, to date, the current barriers in Medicare regarding access to audiologists and the provision of services via telehealth have not been addressed.

Please visit the Academy Legislative Action Center to access a template letter to contact your legislators about this critical issue.


The CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Begins Disbursements


Today, April 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began distributing the initial $30 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to providers as part of the distribution of the $100 billion fund provided as part of the CARES Act.
 
This initial distribution of funds will go to hospitals and providers currently enrolled in Medicare and take effect immediately. Facilities and providers are allotted a portion of the $30 billion based on their share of 2019 Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements. Therefore, those facilities and providers that billed significant amounts of Medicare FFS in 2019 are the priority in this first phase.
 
These are payments, not loans, and will not need to be repaid. Fund recipients will be prohibited from balancing billing COVID-19 patients for related services. Additional details from HHS can be found here.
 
A second phase of targeted distributions to providers is expected to follow soon and will focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, and providers of services with lower shares of Medicare FFS reimbursement or who predominantly serve the Medicaid population.


Academy Speaks Directly with CMS Staff Regarding Medicare Audiology Services and Telehealth

On April 8, Academy staff participated in a CMS Special Open Door Forum to address CMS’ actions to increase access to telehealth in Medicare during the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS gave an update on their actions to date and then took a limited amount of questions from the call participants. The Academy was able to pose the following question directly to CMS staff:

"To date, CMS has removed many existing barriers to the provision of services via telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries but not all. Specifically, the Agency has not yet removed the restriction on the provision of audiology services via telehealth. Given the fact that untreated hearing loss is an isolating factor in and of itself—which is compounded by the lockdowns in many senior living facilities,—will the Agency consider taking action to allow audiology services to be provided via telehealth?”

CMS staff responded that they are taking a broad look at using their waiver authority to further expand Medicare beneficiary access to needed services. CMS requested that the Academy provide follow-up information on the types of audiology services that could be provided via telehealth. Academy staff indicated that they would follow up via e-mail and also pointed out that the Veterans Administration has been providing tele-audiology services for quite some time.  


Academy and AAA Foundation Boards: We Are Here for You…We Hear You

The Boards of the American Academy of Audiology and the American Academy of Audiology Foundation recognize that our membership is dealing with myriad challenges as a result of the coronavirus.

We know that audiologists across the country are doing their best to serve their patients, support their families, and follow state and federal recommendations to “flatten the curve”…and they may be feeling worried, anxious, or uncertain. Watch the video message.


Resources

  • The Center for Connected Health Policy has created a resource that provides links to all state-related actions on telehealth that have been issued in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Information is provided on Executive Orders, changes to Medicaid/Medicaid managed care, specific legislation passed, and any guidance given by the state to private health plans.
  • The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has created a helpful guide for small businesses outlining the various loan options available to them at this time, including associated tax consequences as well as contact information for small businesses to seek advice. 
  • States and localities continue to take additional measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including requiring residents to  stay home and for non-essential businesses to close physical locations and require 100 percent of their workforce to telecommute. What businesses, then, are considered “essential”? This differs depending on state or locality. View the resource created by Multistate Associates.

Week of April 3, 2020

Academy Telehealth Update and Guide

Audiologists are beginning to employ creative solutions to assist their patients while mitigating the risk of further transmission of the virus.

Some former face-to-face visits are now being handled via telephone, video, and/or remote connection to hearing aid devices. Many audiologists are wondering if these remote services can be billed and reimbursed. This guide will help you understand options that are available to audiologists at the present time.

Treasury Department Releases Application Form and Fact Sheet for Forgivable Small Businesses Loans

Small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply starting on April, 3, 2020. The application form can be found here.  

For more details about the program, access the accompanying fact sheet from the Treasury Department.

 

Advocacy Updates

Statements from Academy Leadership

CEU-Eligible Online Education

The Academy is committed to ensuring audiologists have access to virtual CEU-eligible educational resources during this challenging time. 

On-demand seminars and live webinars are now available on eAudiology.org, and live webinars are scheduled throughout April. New webinars will be added each month. 

Brought to you by the AAA Foundation’s Educational Fund. Thank you to those who donated their AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo Conference refunds toward this educational fund.

Treasury Department Releases Application Form and Fact Sheet for Forgivable Small Businesses Loans

The newly enacted Paycheck Protection Program included in the most recent COVID-19 relief package authorizes $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to cover payroll, rent/mortgage and utilities.

President Signs “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” that Includes Small Business Assistance (CARES)

The recently enacted “CARES” Act includes the “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) for small businesses. The PPP is designed to provide short-term cash flow assistance to small businesses to help these businesses and their employees deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources


COVID-19 Updates

See a recap of this week's news and resources. A new Academy update will be posted each Friday.

COVID-19 Updates


COVID-19 Vaccine Resources: Vaccine Access/Eligibility, Side Effects, and Cost

This vaccination effort faces unprecedented challenges in terms of the order of magnitude, the complexity of the vaccine administration, and the limited supply of the product.  Each state has devised its own vaccine distribution plan; although these plans have been described as “works in progress” and continue to be updated and refined.  The links below are intended to provide information about vaccine access, safety information and potential side effects as well as costs.

Contact your local and state health department to ascertain whether audiologists are included in the definition of “health-care worker.” 

The Academy has also learned that in many states, local departments of health are taking responsibility for vaccinating health-care providers who are not affiliated with a large health-care system or hospital.


Practice Management Resources


Telehealth Resources

Telehealth and Medicare/Medicaid

Below is a resource list with information on the provision of telehealth services. The Academy will post additional information as it comes available.

Toolkits and Resource Centers


Treatment and Management Considerations

Ototoxicity, Medications, and Supplements


Government Resources


Public Awareness and Educational Resources


Communication Access Resources 

Mental Health


Resources for Students