Purpose: Fair and equal access to health care for all is a fundamental principle of the National Health Service (NHS) in England. However, findings from a previous national survey examining the experiences of hearing-impaired patients when accessing services within the primary care setting have revealed that significant barriers continue to exist. The aim of this study was to examine the availability of assistive communication devices for patients with hearing loss at reception desks and in patient waiting areas in hospital outpatient settings.Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey involving Audiology and Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) clinics in NHS hospitals in England. Questionnaires were administered to members of staff at clinic reception desks.Results: All NHS hospital trusts in England providing Audiology and ENT services were included in the survey. Information was obtained from a total of 208 individual clinic reception desks. Assistive communication devices were reported to be available at 64 per cent of Audiology (49/76), 42 per cent of ENT (32/76) and 71 per cent of shared Audiology and ENT reception areas (40/56). The most common type of device was an induction loop system. A substantial proportion of survey respondents were not aware of existing facilities.Conclusions: There is a shortage of assistive communication devices in Audiology and ENT clinic reception areas in England. The range of technology currently in place is insufficient. We have identified a significant lack of "deaf awareness" among frontline staff.Implications for rehabilitationProviders of health care services must recognize their legal obligation to ensure that their services are made more accessible to patients with hearing loss.The use of multimodal assistive technology ensures that more patients can benefit.Staff awareness and training is essential in improving the quality of service provision.
Jama GM, Shahidi S, Danino J, Murphy J. Assistive communication devices for patients with hearing loss: a cross-sectional survey of availability and staff awareness in outpatient clinics in England. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2020 Aug;15(6):625-628. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2019.1604823. Epub 2019 Apr 23. PMID: 31012757.