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Background and context              

Approximately nine million adults in England have some form of hearing loss – that equates to one in six people. Most are older people who have a progressive hearing loss as part of the ageing process, with more than 70 percent of over 70 year olds experiencing communication difficulty as a result.

Around two million people currently have a hearing aid but there are four million people who do not have hearing aids and would benefit from them. This may be due low levels of awareness or difficulty physically accessing hospital NHS hearing aid services.

Additionally up to 2 out of 10 hearing aid users do not gain maximum benefit from their hearing aids because they are unhappy with them. Appearance, background noise, discomfort and difficulty with handling are often reported.

Unmanaged hearing loss can lead to distorted or incomplete communication leading to embarrassment, frustration, fatigue, reduced working memory, social isolation and withdrawal.

To tackle this unmet need we would like to identify people needing or wanting help promptly and supporting them at the hospital or in their local community early, both before and after hearing aid fitting.

 

Project aim

The overall aim is to ensure that people maximise their communication in their local community by seeking help early and receiving the maximum benefit from their hearing aids.

We will do this by working in partnership with the Diocese of Guildford Sensory Inclusion Officer, local Parishes and our Volunteer service to train approximately 50 Volunteer Hearing Champions. These volunteers, based across  the 19 local parish areas, will complement the hospital service by providing basic hearing aid care in their local communities. Fostering a new, complimentary element of person centred care they will deliver assistance to their peers in the community helping them to better use their hearing aids and supporting them with general hearing and communication advice. 

Initial training will be delivered by our Clinical Audiologists with ongoing quarterly direct observations to ensure good practice is maintained by the volunteers. Service Level Agreements will be signed to support this.

We hope that this will see increased use of hearing aids by people struggling to use them and an increase in the number of people with undiagnosed hearing loss coming into the hospital for support/help. Getting the right support at a time that is right for them by someone that they know and trust is expected to lead to improved communication and quality of life for those using hearing aids. Some of those people may even go on and give support to their peers who also need help with their hearing aids and promote the parish and hospital services.

The learning from this work will be able to inform other peer support initiatives in the community for different patient groups. We hope to answer questions relating to what the essential elements of peer support are in order to successfully deliver an alternative to/or compliment hospital contacts and if this peer support is fundamentally different to other support, and if so how.

Benefits & measures

The expected benefits and measures.  

  • Higher levels of patient satisfaction, hearing aid use and reported benefit.

  • Increased awareness of service and consequently earlier access reflected by increased requests for hearing assessments.

  • Learning to inform adoption of similar community based peer support programmes in other areas.

Funding

To deliver this training to 50 volunteers we would need to release the clinical audiologists from their clinics (reducing capacity). The estimated cost for the 250 hours required to deliver the training and supervision, cover travel expenses and promotion is £7, 500 (based on a band 6 specialist audiologist 0.1 wte).

How you can contribute

  • • Learning from similar work delivering support in the community
  • • Ideas of the potential to spread this to different settings

Comments

  1. Very good point! I've spoke to Justine Sweet who is leading on this and the plan includes getting the champions involved in both retention and handling of the aids. It'll be interesting to see what this work will be and the impact.

  2. Great project and a brilliant demonstration of joining up "acute" care with the community. Certainly worth thinking about down here.

    This may be a bit tangential, but many hospitals face really significant bills for the loss of expensive hearing aids during patient stays; and hugely inconvenient to the (often frail and confused) patient. I wonder if the volunteers might champion ways of holding on to the aids, once fitted!

  3.  
    We plan to present the project outcomes at local Audiology network events and professional systems meetings.
     
    Depending upon level of interest we may present formally at national conferences.
     
     
     

  4. Sounds like a great project and very good value for money.

    How will you look to share your learning with other areas if it's a successful approach?

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