Dear Loyal Chesapeake Hearing Centers Patients
This has been an unprecedented period for our country, community, and company. Throughout this time, our priorities have been to take care of our patients and keep them safe, take care of our employees and keep them safe, and to maintain a viable and strong business so that we can continue to care for those important to us.
We know that a very large percentage of our patients represent the demographic most at risk for significant illness and even death from COVID-19. Our founder Dr. Charles L. Hutto, Au.D., and his wife are in this demographic, so they are well aware that the safest thing is to just stay home until this pandemic is under control.
However, there are some important things we need to go out and do and which cannot wait. For many, maximizing our ability to communicate is one of those priorities, whether it is a Zoom call with grandkids, agreeing on the TV volume with your quarantine partner, or trying to understand what doctors are trying to tell you in the hospital. The challenges of hearing loss are amplified when we try to talk to one another from six feet apart or through barriers such as masks or windows. Indeed, studies have shown some masks reduce the sound of high frequency sounds (the most important for understanding speech) by about 12 decibels. With the speaker’s mouth covered, we are also cut off from those important visual cues that help us understand.
We have heard about all of these challenges from our patients. That is why we are here to make sure you get as much from your hearing aids as possible during this difficult time. We have set up procedures for drop-off hours, remote, and curbside service, explained in detail below. Only when these options have been exhausted would we recommend coming into the office.
Daily Drop-off Hours and Pickup Time
On each day that an office is open for a full-day (see schedule below), you can stop by between 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. to drop off your hearing aids in a designated Drop-Off Bin outside the front door. Just call ahead to make sure we are open since sometimes we close for holidays or training. Then call us again after you’ve placed your hearing aids in the Drop-off Bin. Rather than waiting for your hearing aids to be cleaned, you will leave and then return between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. when someone will bring your cleaned hearing aids out to your vehicle! Please read further instructions here.
- Annapolis – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- Severna Park – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- Columbia – No drop-off hours, please call to schedule
- Kent Island – Tuesday and Friday
- Easton – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
- Salisbury – Tuesday and Thursday
- Ocean Pines – Monday and Wednesday
While Drop-off Hours are the preferred method for routine cleanings and simple hearing aid problems, for more complicated problems it will be better to schedule Drop-and-Wait Service. As many of you have experienced, this system works by calling 888-647-6428 to schedule a time to put your hearing aids in the small white UV box outside our office (the box uses UV light to disinfect the hearing aids). Once you have placed your hearing aids in the box you return to wait in your car. It is important that you wait in your car at the office while we service your hearing aids. Once they are serviced, we return them to the UV box. If you have a cell phone, it is critical that we have the number to avoid any confusion while carrying out this type of appointment.
This has been working well for us throughout this time, allowing us to care for our current patients and some patients new to us in these extraordinary circumstances.
Curbside Service and Hearing Aid Fittings
When we need to adjust your hearing aids or fit you with new hearing aids, curbside service is a possibility in many cases. You would set up an appointment during which we would come to your car to discuss your issues. If an adjustment is necessary, we can eliminate in-person contact by having the provider communicate from their car to your hearing aid in an adjoining car. If that is not sufficient, then we may need to take the hearing aids inside and adjust them and bring them back to you. The same method can be used to fit and adjust new hearing aids to your hearing loss.
If you have the latest hearing aids, it may be possible to remotely adjust your instruments from the office with you in the comfort of your home through telehealth, which you can read about in the next section.
We are also excited to offer telehealth services to both new and existing patients when possible. With telehealth, you can speak with your provider over video while remaining safe in your home. Telehealth can be particularly helpful for those of you who require transportation since you can avoid any unnecessary COVID-19 exposure getting to the appointment.
We make telehealth as user-friendly as possible by sending a link to a video conference through your email. You can also share the link with a relative or other companion so they can participate in the appointment even if they are calling in from a different state. For patients who have the newest technology, your provider can make programming changes and adjustments remotely while you are in the comfort of your home. When something seems wrong with your hearing aids, there are also remote troubleshooting options.
Many patients have found telehealth to be time-saving and effective in most situations. You can call our office at 443-832-4243 to see if these options are available for you.
In-Office Appointments (if other options are unsuccessful)
Our primary objective is to keep patients and employees safe, so it is only if the other methods above have been unsuccessful that we would consider authorizing an in-office appointment.
If you do have an in-office appointment, know that we are practicing the highest levels of infection control to keep our patients safe. We will ask each patient some screening questions to protect them, other patients, and our staff. We will also require patients to wear a mask during their appointments.
When you arrive, your temperature will be checked with a touchless thermometer and you will be asked whether you have experienced any one of the following symptoms in the last two weeks:
- Shortness of breath
- Temperature above 99.5 at visit time
Or if you have experienced at least two of the following:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you will need a physician’s statement that you were tested and found to be COVID-19 negative in order to be seen. Otherwise, we feel it is in the best of interest of our other patients and staff that you postpone your in-office appointment.
These requirements are also in effect for every staff member at CHC.
PROCEDURES WHEN AN OFFICE VISIT IS THE ONLY CHOICE
Some of our procedures are as follows:
- We only allow one patient in the office at a time. The parking lot is our waiting room. So, when you arrive call our office at 888-647-6428. We will acknowledge your arrival and let you know your approximate wait time. We will call you when it is time to come in. Please do not attempt to enter the office until we call you. This is for the protection of you, the other patients in the office, and the staff.
- The front office area is closed off with plexiglass to prevent airborne droplets moving back and forth.
- You will be taken directly to the exam room. The exam room will be disinfected prior to your arrival. There are several exam rooms. These will be alternated in use so that a patient never enters an exam room that was just occupied by the last patient.
- Prior to your visit, we will use a HEPA filtering system, with a UVC light to clean and sanitize the air (aerosol) of any residual particles. This process takes approximately one hour so no exam room will be used until it is complete.
- The provider will disinfect all instruments and devices prior to patient use.
- The provider will wear gloves and mask for all appointments.
- Additionally, when testing hearing headphones will be disinfected and then fitted with protective coverings which are discarded after each use to reduce any possible contamination.
- Your hearing aids will be cleaned and completely sanitized by FDA-approved chemicals and finished with a three-minute ultraviolet treatment.
If you are older or have an underlying condition, remember that we can address your issue remotely to reduce your exposure. We certainly do not want you to expose yourself to COVID-19 by having someone drive you to an appointment and thus break the careful social distancing plan you’ve been implementing. We will find a way to take care of you, as that was our promise.
Your safety is our primary concern. If you have any other questions, please call 888-647-6428. We are here to help in any way we can.
If you are a new patient concerned about your hearing or a loved one’s hearing, the best place to start is to have a telehealth visit with one of our providers. There is no charge for this initial visit, and we can help guide you toward the best course of action. Our goal is to help you better understand the challenges you are having with your hearing and keep you safe at the same time. Please call 443-832-4243 to see how we can best help you.
We will continue to answer the phones during office hours for all offices. Many of our front office staff continue to work from home but have access to our computer systems and can schedule you with any provider and in any available office.
There is no doubt that this has been a tough time for Chesapeake Hearing Centers. We are committed to taking care of our patients for the life of their hearing instruments. In order to fulfill this promise to our existing patients, we depend on new patients joining us to provide income to sustain us. April was difficult, but nonetheless, we have maintained essential services throughout the crisis in order to live up to our commitment to our patients.
We are nearly back at full strength thanks to the federal government PPP program. We are deeply grateful for all the efforts of our incredible staff to keep everything working for you, our patients.
Lastly, we want to thank all of you – our loyal patients. The only reason we have been able to be in business for 45 years is because you have believed in us and continued to entrust your hearing to us. We will do everything we can to continue providing the remarkable service we promised to you.
-The Leadership Team at Chesapeake Hearing Centers
Dr. Charles L. Hutto, AuD., Founder and Chairman
Julie Petruzzi, CEO
Tim Aland, President
Dr. Caroline Aland, AuD., Director of Clinical Services
Mariya Hutto, Hearing Aid Dispenser