In December 2022, the NHS published a document called “Approaches to addressing audiology waiting times.” This is required because of the challenge of long NHS waiting lists. One action is to reduce unnecessary follow-up activity and free up workforce capacity. Reducing unnecessary follow-ups is understandable; however, an unintended consequence of this document is that follow-up and monitoring may not be provided to new adult hearing aid users.
NICE recommendations are clear: ALL NEW adult hearing aid users should be offered a follow-up around six weeks after fitting. This is an essential part of the rehabilitation care pathway, where, for example, additional information may be provided. This means it is unsuitable for a patient-initiated follow up (PIFUs). Also, it is well known that some new adult hearing aid users are reluctant in coming forward to have issues addressed. This hesitation leads to bad habits, underuse of hearing aids, reduced benefit and a waste of resources. Again, reliance on PIFUs has the potential to undermine the quality of adult hearing rehabilitation.
Follow-up and monitoring of new adult hearing aid patients are necessary and should be provided – you should not stop offering these. I have been advised by the authors of the NHS document that the wording will be amended to reflect NICE recommendations and the new guidance will appear online.
The reason for sharing this information with you is not only because it is good clinical practice to provide follow-ups but the NIHR have commissioned an important UK-wide study to evaluate follow-up and monitoring in new adult hearing aid users – this is the FAMOUS study.
So, the take home message for new adult hearing aid fitting is clear and is supported by BAA: follow-up is both necessary and recommended.
Kevin J Munro, Ewing professor of audiology
Manchester, 28 February 2023
Please see Professor Munro’s video message here: Professor Munro’s video message to audiologists