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February 7, 2003

Digital hearing aid scheme for England

From:, U.K. - 07 Feb 2003


By Health Newswire reporters

Digital hearing aid technology is to be made publicly available in England by April 2005, the government has announced.

The Department of Health says 1.8 million people, including 18,000 children, will benefit from the scheme, which will be backed by £94 million of funding.

Digital hearing aids first became available on the NHS in some parts of the country in 2000 with the start of a programme to modernise audiology services. Since then there have been three waves of investment with 66 trusts receiving funding. By April of this year nearly a third of audiology departments will offer the devices, the government says.

The modernisation programme is funded by the Department of Health and managed by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), which campaigned hard to get the new technology introduced. The RNID will be writing to all trusts that do not currently offer digital aids outlining details of the national rollout.

Announcing the scheme, Health Secretary Alan Milburn said, “The sustained investment we are now making in the NHS means that we can extend the availability of digital hearing aids across the country. The result is better services for deaf people and those who are hard of hearing.

“By keeping up the investment and putting in the reforms, we are making steady progress towards the modern health service our nation needs,” he said.

RNID Chief Executive John Low said the announcement was “brilliant news” and that it would transform the lives of those with hearing difficulties.

He said, “At last there will be a world-class NHS hearing aid service throughout England.

“Research shows that digital hearing aids offer patients a 40 per cent improvement in hearing and quality of life.”

Digital hearing aids are far superior to the old analogue circuit aids. Sound levels can be tailored to suit the patient, feedback and background noise can be minimised, and the hearing aid can be adjusted for different sound environments.

The aids, which will be free to patients, cost the government up to £75 each, but are priced at about £2,000 if bought privately.

© HMG Worldwide 2003