Published on 13 May 2020
Audiology staff at East Kent Hospitals are helping their patients stay in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak thanks to virtual clinics.
The team are able to help with hearing aid fitting and programming via video calls, and can also offer rehabilitation clinics as well as some assessments for conditions such as tinnitus.
It means people who are isolated can still contact friends and family without struggling to hear what they are saying.
Head of service Tina Beckham said: “It is so important for all of us to be able to stay connected at the moment, and thanks to our virtual clinics and the hard work of our teams we can help our patients do just that.
“Some people are on their own and they really need to be able to talk to loved ones.
“With our virtual clinics we can programme their hearing aid and post it to them then talk them through the fitting process. Everyone we’ve been able to help has been over the moon.”
Virtual fitting was previously only available in private clinics, which are now mostly closed due to the coronavirus restrictions.
East Kent Hospitals is one of only a few NHS providers to offer it – and the team have also harnessed technology to finetune hearing aids via Bluetooth. They plan to expand this to reach more people within weeks.
Meanwhile, although some staff have been redeployed to help other areas, the skeleton team who remain are also helping monitor the welfare of their patients and referring them for help collecting prescriptions or food supplies if necessary.
Tina said: “Ordinarily we would be spending less than a minute on a call because it would just be to make an appointment or give hearing aid advice and guidance.
“But now we are able to have a real chat with people, to ask about medication and food and if they need help.
“If they are on their own and they are struggling we can refer them on and it’s a real privilege to be able to help in this way.”
Working with the Kent and Thanet Tinnitus Group the team have also set up virtual meetings for tinnitus patients, to allow them to connect during the pandemic.
Tina said: “People with tinnitus have real anxiety about being locked in so it was important to set up the virtual group.
“We are also doing assessments and rehabilitation virtually so we can continue to help people while restrictions continue.
“I am blessed to have such a great team who are determined to do the best for our patients and are investigating all possible technological solutions to allow us to do this.
“Although we can’t yet do hearing tests virtually I do believe that will come in time, and in the meantime there is still a lot we can do, and are doing, to help patients across Kent and even further afield.”
For advice or support with hearing aids or other audiology issues, call 01227 864252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org