Discover our position on many aspects of access to health services and social care for people with hearing loss.
Government, the NHS, GPs and other health care services must take action to meet the requirements of equality legislation and standards for accessible information and communication, to ensure people with hearing loss can access health care without barriers.
This report examines the experiences of people with hearing loss and deafness when accessing primary healthcare services in Northern Ireland.
We believe people with a hearing loss in both ears should always be offered two hearing aids, when clinically suitable. They should be advised on the benefits of two hearing aids, taking into consideration their individual hearing loss and lifestyle, so that they can make an informed decision.
We're supportive of patient choice and recognise that the process of getting hearing aids can vary. However, it should always involve a full hearing assessment from a qualified professional, who can ensure hearing aids are fitted correctly for the individual’s hearing loss and particular needs.
More adults could benefit from cochlear implantation. This statement makes recommendations for how this can be achieved, including calling on NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) to review and update its guidance, better public awareness and improved referral rates from audiology.
Any Qualified Provider (AQP) was introduced in 2012. It means that any healthcare provider, including the NHS, independent, voluntary and third sector organisations, can deliver NHS services, providing they meet NHS quality requirements, prices and contracts.
For many people with hearing loss, lipreading is a vital communication skill. Most people learn to lipread by attending classes, which also provide useful information and support. We want to see lipreading support more widely available and recognised as an essential part of rehabilitation.
People with hearing loss have access to different levels and types of social services provision, depending on where they live, which can make it difficult for people to move. We support reforms to the rules that would help people live in their preferred locality and living arrangement.
It is possible to obtain hearing aids free of charge on long term loan from the NHS, following a referral from a GP. Alternately, private hearing aid dispensers can assess someone's hearing and supply digital hearing aids, without a GP referral.
Social care can help people who are deaf or have hearing loss communicate with other people, get into and remain in work and look after their health and wellbeing. Despite its benefits, we know that people who are deaf of have hearing loss often struggle to access the social care they need due to social care funding cuts, unwarranted variations in service quality and provision, and poor co-ordination between health and social care services.
We believe high-quality support, therapies and information are vital in easing the distress tinnitus can cause. Provision of audiology and tinnitus services should be protected, local variation in access and quality of services should be addressed, and there should be better public awareness about prevention.
Targets have been introduced to help guarantee timely intervention for people with hearing loss. These are monitored by different health bodies, and there are recommended courses for action if these waiting times are not met.
People with hearing loss should receive appropriate information on wax management, and wax removal services should be accessible to all. Ear wax is normal but excessive ear wax is one of the most common causes of temporary hearing loss and a major cause of hearing aid failure.