By 31st July 2016, all organisations that provide NHS or publicly funded adult social care must conform to a new Accessible Information Standard.
This standard aims to benefit those with a disability or sensory loss by telling organisations how they should provide support to enable effective, accurate dialogue with disabled residents or patients. In order to comply, a means of communicating with those with hearing loss must be in place in care homes.
For those with hearing loss, this is a breakthrough. Hearing loss is a major public health issue in the UK, affecting a third of over 65 year olds. They receive a lower standard of healthcare across the board when compared to the general population, with a study having found that higher levels of hearing loss were linked to lower levels of patient activation.
So what should care homes do?
Often, a hearing aid alone isn’t enough.
In “normal mode”, hearing aids amplify all sounds, including any background noise. This can make it very tricky for those with hearing loss to distinguish speech. Care homes need to take into consideration what provisions they should offer, just as they would for wheelchair access.
By providing assistive technology such as hearing loops (also known as induction loops), care homes improve their residents’ or patients’ care and general wellbeing, along with making staff’s day-to-day interactions easier.
So how do hearing loops work?
Hearing loop systems help to improve communication with those living with hearing loss, and are already installed in many hospitals and surgeries across the UK. Speech is picked up through a microphone, converted to an alternating magnetic field which is received by the telecoil within the hearing aid. This is where it’s converted back to speech, enabling clear conversation.
If you work for, live in, or have a loved one residing in adult social care, please talk to your care home manager about hearing loops and their compliance with the 2016 NHS Accessible Information Standard. All care home residents should be given the opportunity to join in day-to-day activities around their home and make decisions about their health, wellbeing, care and treatment.