Hearing aids have the potential to transform the lives of those with permanent hearing loss, yet out of the three million people who have one, around 25 per cent — 750,000 people — choose not to wear their device.
Now researchers are offering easy-to-use, interactive video tutorials offering handy tips and advice in a bid to increase the chances of success for people using their hearing aids for the first time and make the most of their device.
If they are successful, the tutorials could be routinely given to patients receiving hearing aids on the NHS within the next three years.
The project and is being led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing (NBRUH) and brings together expertise from researchers and leading clinicians from The University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
In addition to issues with retaining the large amount of information given to users at their clinic appointment, there are other significant barriers to hearing aid use before patients even reach the referral stage.
Many hearing aid users have had difficulties in hearing for at least 10 years before they get a hearing aid citing many reasons for not seeking advice. These include perceiving their hearing to be ‘not that bad’, acceptance of hearing loss as a normal consequence of ageing, lack of awareness of that they may have a hearing loss (‘everyone mumbles these days’), lack of understanding of hearing loss and what to do about it, and simply avoiding to address the issue.
In addition, many people who need a hearing aid are not given the referral they need to see a specialist. Just under half (47 per cent) of those with a significant hearing loss in the 55-74 year age group who went to their GP with complaints of hearing loss failed to get an onward referral to audiology services.
The tutorials reinforce information and advice given at the clinic appointment and include information, animations, videos and powerful messages from users of hearing aids about their personal experiences.
At the end of each tutorial there is an interactive quiz so the patients can review what they have learned. The tutorials, which total an hour in duration, will also offer friends and family an important insight into how best to support the hearing aid user by developing a better awareness of how best to hold conversations with people with hearing loss.
Anne Darby, an experienced hearing aid user of 30 years, played a key role in providing a patient perspective for the project. She said: “This is a fabulous resource for people receiving their hearing aids for the first time. It explains the mechanics of hearing and how hearing aids work, supports people through the difficulties of adjustment, lets the viewer know that they are not alone, points to other resources and, most of all, is reassuring to the patient and their partners, family and friends.”
The team has received a £235,000 NIHR Research for Patient Benefit grant and is now in the process of evaluating the potential benefits of the tutorials. Involving 200 patients, it is expected to find substantial success in terms of better hearing aid use and improved communication with family and friends.
Dr Gareth Smith, President of the British Academy of Audiology, said: “In the new NHS arena, where evidence-based, clinical innovation is the key to successful service delivery and outcomes for patients, NBRUH are in a fantastic position to spearhead positive change. This award-winning project, simple in design yet so effective in practice, sets the bar for other healthcare professionals to consider how they can follow this example to improve patient out-comes. The challenge has now been set for the audiology profession to incorporate this model of information delivery into everyday practice.”
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 40,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘the world’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking 2011.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.
About the NIHR – The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world-class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients. www.nihr.ac.uk
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