Health and Wellbeing Progress – Recommendation 13

Funding hearing aids

The Scottish Government and NHS(S) should make funding available so that veterans with the most severe hearing loss as a result of their military service can have access to the best possible hearing aids and support.

2019 SVC evaluation of status:

Partially implemented

2019 update provided by the Scottish Government:

Patients’ needs are assessed by an audiologist, taking account of product specification, flexibility and cosmetic appearance, leading to a recommendation of a specific hearing aid. Typically, a like for like replacement is provided. For example if a patient – veteran or otherwise – has previously worn “in the ear” (ITE) hearing aids, and provided it is still technically appropriate, they should receive replacement ITEs. Custom ITE hearing aids are defined as “specialist” and offer a mainly cosmetic difference rather than significant technical advantage over “behind the ear” (BTE) hearing aids. ITEs are not routinely provided by NHS Audiology Services, mainly due to cost (often several times the price of BTEs) and being seen as less reliable and requiring more maintenance. ITEs may be prescribed where there is a physical fit issue or where personal protective equipment or other head wear may make the wearing of a BTE difficult. In the past, ITEs have been prescribed due to BTEs not meeting the acoustic performance required to overcome hearing loss. However, most hearing loss can now be resolved to the same standard with a BTE.

2020 SVC evaluation of status:

Partially implemented

2020 update provided by the Scottish Government:

Hearing Aid provision has been a priority for the Strategic Oversight Group and Implementation Group (SOG / IG).  The National Clinical Director wrote to the Head of Audiology in all NHS Boards to request support to ensure that where a serving member of the Armed Forces or a veteran, presents with a previously issued hearing aid, that every effort will be made to maintain and support their use of that device or, where that is not possible, any change is sympathetic, even where this means that in some cases there is a small additional cost.

2021 SVC evaluation of status:

Implemented, but work should continue

2021 update provided by the Scottish Government:

Engagement through surveys – one for veterans using services and another for audiology departments – provided a basis to assess the impact of the 2019 joint letter from the National Clinical Director and Adrian Carragher, Head of Audiology at Ayr University Hospital, which went to the heads of audiology departments across Scotland. While presentations to NHS audiology services may have been curtailed by COVID-19, the survey results highlighted that there were a very small number of presentations since August 2019, the requests in the letter were being carried out, and there were no issues. The situation will continue to be monitored. The survey can be repeated if considered necessary at any stage.

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