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Audiology Services During & After Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Audiology Services During & After Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Hearing Aid UK & their audiologists are dedicated & committed to providing safe hearing healthcare to all their patients

20/10/2020 Guidance Update:  All areas remain open for business.

All healthcare appointments continue to remain essential medical visits and abide by the existing government and industry protocols.  As we are aware, there are various restrictions throughout the UK, so our current risk assessments will now be centred around local restrictions set by the government.

In areas of the UK under lockdown, firebreak, or tiered restrictions - we are advised, as has been standard procedure from May 2020, to offer a digital approach where appropriate.  However, if you are visiting one of our audiologists within the clinic - you may also be given a letter, email or text confirmation of your audiology appointment, in the event you need to show your travel need.

From the 1st of May 2020, audiology services were listed as an essential service by the government and our healthcare services have now resumed and are available to you now locally and at your convenience.  This replaces the previous public health guidelines of our industry, stated on the 9th of April 2020.

The aim of this article is to provide you with the correct information on how we have adapted our services in both our clinics and home visits.  We are working entirely within the current audiology government guidelines and receiving joint support and advice from the UK's audiology professional bodies below. 

This means we are constantly being updated on new audiology guidelines, procedures and restrictions so we can operate safe hearing services for our audiologist and patients.  We want to reassure our customers that we and our audiologists are doing everything we can to prevent the risk of transmission professionally and safely.

It is important to note that this information is not exhaustive and if you have any questions regarding any of the following content in this article or you would like more information about how your local audiologist can help you during and after Coronavirus - Call us free on 0800 567 7621

In this article we will be covering the following areas:

The new normal

Due to the pandemic, the way in which we provide service to our patients has changed and we currently don't know how long for.  But, what is important is that you can and will be looked after. Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are receiving regular updates, documents and official government and medical guidance.  This ensures we can continue to offer you support and the care that you need, as well as keeping our audiologists and patient's as safe as possible.  Our audiology procedures are in line with the NHS, recent government guidelines on COVID-19, Infection Prevention Society, our professional audiology bodies and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For the foreseeable future, here are a few of the precautions we have put in place to make this possible in both our clinics and home visiting.  However, please refer to the unique precautions below for both in-clinic appointments and home visiting services in more depth.

  1. PPE:  Hand and respiratory hygiene aseptic techniques - Including the "catch it and bin" it safely strategy.
  2. Sanitising and sterilising of equipment, furniture, handles etc. between the appointments of every customer.
  3. Regular risk assessments.
  4. Each patient will be asked screening questions via telephone before their scheduled appointment, either in-clinic or at home.  This is to ensure that we do not come into contact with any patients who are symptomatic of COVID-19.  
  5. Social distancing wherever possible.
  6. Reducing appointment times.
  7. Adapting the equipment used and keeping equipment used to a minimum, removing any unnecessary procedures such as REMs.
  8. Regular staff training about new procedures and guidelines.

Who can & who can't be seen?

During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) we cannot see you, either in the clinic or at home, if you or another member of your household has any symptoms of the virus. We can, however, book audiology appointments for those who are shielding or classed as high-risk.  In these circumstances, you should remain isolated and we will not offer you clinic-based tests - but we will offer you a home visit. 

We want to reassure our customers that not only can our audiologists provide safe care - you will still get a high level of customer experience and we can provide the usual full range of hearing solutions.  Another important note is that although our audiologists can see patients with various earwax issues, the guidelines prevent us from performing micro-suction or hearing tests on patients with an active perforation or "wet ear" due to the risk of possible transmission of the virus.

What is PPE?

In this article we will be referring to PPE, but what actually is it?  PPE is an abbreviation of Personal Protective Equipment, which is worn to protect the wearer from injury or infection.  In the current Coronavirus pandemic, and for our audiologists, this would be a face mask, gloves, and if wax removal is to be done, also an apron. This reduces the risk of transmission and provides the safest systems of working for face-to-face consultations. 

The audiologist may also ask you to wear a face mask during your appointment, especially when treatment or an examination has to be done within a 2m distance.  All PPE worn by the audiologist will be put on and removed properly.  Disposing of the PPE will follow the clinical waste guidelines and only be used once. 

Remote care

Whilst we are happy to see people in person at this time, it is still recommended for those who are shielding that anything that can be done remotely and without coming into contact with anyone should be the preferred option. If remote service is not suitable for your needs then we will book you in for an in-person visit. The remote services we offer are;

For existing hearing aid wearers with an audiogram under two years old, we are able to perform a telephone consultation to assess your needs and then send the hearing aids out to you, programmed to your hearing loss

For new hearing aid wearers or those without an audiogram under two years old then we may still be able to help. Provided you have a smart device such as an iPad or iPhone then for Phonak, Oticon, Signia and Widex hearing aids, we are able to dispatch the hearing aids to you by post and then perform a hearing test through the hearing aids to set them up for you remotely. This will not be suitable for all and we will assess your eligibility by telephone consultation. 

This is not an ideal situation and the hearing aids will not perform as well as if they had been set up in person by one of our audiologists, however, these by-post fittings will be a temporary measure only until we are able to see you in person again, at which point you will be tested and fitted again and everything will be done to our usual high standard.

Coronavirus screening questions

Please refer to the following screening questions, advised by the government, that you will be asked before your scheduled appointment via telephone.  This will help keep us from coming into contact with those symptomatic with COVID-19.  If you answer yes to any of the following you will be advised to self-isolate and look at the NHS website for guidance.  Once your symptoms have ceased you can contact your audiologist to revisit your audiological needs.

  1. Do you or anyone else in your household have Coronavirus?
  2. Do you have a new or continuous cough?
  3. Do you have a high temperature of 37.8 degrees or over?
  4. Does anyone in your household have a new or continuous cough or high temperature? 
  5. Do you have a loss or changed sense of normal smell or taste?

What to expect with a clinic appointment

Before audiology appointment

  • Your audiologist will contact you via telephone to ask you screening questions.  These are designed to distinguish if you have Coronavirus symptoms yourself or other people in your household.
  • Once your screening is complete and it is safe to deliver hearing healthcare services to you - your audiologist will go through what to expect from your in-clinic appointment.  The changes, the precautions and why.  This is so you feel more confident in the measures taken and that your appointment runs as smoothly and safely as possible.
  • They may ask you to make a note of any questions you may have in regards to your hearing before your appointment, which may help reduce appointment times.
  • You will be advised that it should be only yourself who attends the appointment.  If this is not possible, a member of your household can assist you - but they need to adhere to social distancing and they may have to wear a face mask during the appointment.
  • You will be asked to be on time for your appointment, to reduce the risk of overlapping and multiple patients accumulating in the waiting room.
  • All waiting room chairs will be 2m apart and where possible, marked on the floor to show this safe distance.
  • All social waiting areas and reception areas will be regularly cleaned and sanitised throughout the day.
  • There will be a buffer time for all the equipment and furniture to be cleaned and sanitised after each patient.
  • There will also be regular risk assessments of the practice, PPE and operations.
  • There will be a visible hand sanitising station for your use before your appointment.

During audiology appointment

  • Upon arrival, you will be asked your screening questions again to check that you are still safe to attend your appointment.
  • Hands will be washed and sanitised consistently before, during and after your appointment by the audiologist.
  • Wherever possible, the audiologist will remain at a safe 2m distance.
  • PPE may be used at all times, but will always be worn when being within 2m is necessary.  Be prepared to be asked to wear a face mask by the audiologist.
  • All close patient contact procedures will be done consecutively using PPE, so it is all done at the same time and reduces exposure.
  • Wherever possible, the equipment used will be limited.
  • Soundproof booths will generally not be used as they are not necessary for an accurate test and can be difficult to sanitise. 
  • Wherever possible, the equipment used will be adapted to help maintain a safe distance.
  • Equipment will be cleaned and sterilised after every appointment.
  • Equipment that is not necessary for the appointment will not be used.
  • If extra tests are needed they will be rescheduled for a later date.
  • As normal, patient records will be written, filed and maintained as normal.  There will be additional information on how the appointment was carried out, what procedures and equipment were used and what hearing healthcare was advised during the appointment.  Due to COVID-19 we need to ensure that everything is recorded and the appointment was operated safely and within the guidelines stated by the government.
**All PPE worn will be put on and removed properly. Disposing of the PPE will follow the clinical waste guidelines and only ever used once**

What to expect with a home visit

Before home visit appointment

Similarly to in-clinic appointments:

  • Your audiologist will contact you via telephone to ask you screening questions. These are designed to distinguish if you have Coronavirus symptoms yourself or other people in your household.
  • Once your screening is complete and it is then appropriate to deliver hearing healthcare services to you - your audiologist will go through what to expect from your home visiting appointment. The changes, the precautions and why. This is so you feel more confident in the measures taken and that your appointment runs as smoothly and safely as possible.
  • The audiologist may ask you to make a note of any questions you may have in regards to your hearing before your appointment, which may help reduce appointment times.
  • A PPE and procedure risk assessment will be carried out before every home visit attended.
  • All equipment will be cleaned and sterilised before each patient.
  • You will be asked to send confirmation that you agree to the home visit and that all family members are aware that the appointment is taking place.
  • You will be advised that no one else is present in the room at your appointment, but if you need assistance then every effort must be made to ensure safe distancing and PPE must be worn.
  • If you are being attended to at a residential home, then the management of the facility should be informed and in agreement.
  • All preparation for the appointment will be done beforehand to reduce the time spent at the home visit.

During home visit appointment

  • You will be asked screening questions again to check that you are still safe to be visited.
  • Hands will be washed and sanitised before your appointment and sanitised at regular intervals during by the audiologist.
  • Wherever possible, the audiologist will remain at a safe 2m distance.
  • PPE will be used at all times, especially when being within 2m is necessary.  Be prepared to be asked to wear a face mask by your audiologist.
  • All close patient contact procedures will be done consecutively using PPE - so it is all done at once and reduces exposure.
  • Wherever possible, the audiology equipment used will be limited and will always be cleaned and sterilised before every appointment.
  • Wherever possible, the equipment used will be adapted to help maintain a safe distance.
  • Equipment that is not necessary for the appointment will not be used and if extra tests are needed they will be rescheduled for a later date.
  • As normal, patient records will be written, filed and maintained as normal electronically and prepared before the home visit to reduce appointment time. There will be additional information on how the appointment was carried out, what procedures and equipment were used and what hearing healthcare was advised during the appointment.  Due to COVID-19, we need to ensure that everything is recorded and the appointment was operated safely and within the guidelines stated by the government.
**All PPE worn will be put on and removed properly. Disposing of the PPE will follow the clinical waste guidelines and only ever used once**

Where has the guidance come from?

As mentioned earlier, we have been advised by our audiology professional bodies with a framework for new protocol practices we undertake in clinics and in our home visiting services.  They have constructed together with the official public health guidelines from the government, NHS, Infection Prevention Society and the World Health Organisation (WHO) a document for our use.

We are constantly taking a proactive approach to be up to date with the current COVID-19 research and guidance.  As said guidance is updated, we will edit this article to reflect this and implement new practice protocols within our nationwide network as and when it is required.

Please view the official audiology flow chart below, which advises the best form of safe practice for both you and the audiologist.

**For more evidence of these new guidelines and to view the flowchart in the PDF, where you can enlarge, please click to download the file below**

Audiology Services During COVID-19 PDF Download

You can download the official guidance document that defines our procedures by clicking the button below.

What to do next

We hope that this article has helped you feel more confident in the safe healthcare services we can provide and that we can cater for your hearing needs.  What's the next step?  Please contact us on 0800 567 7621 if you have any of the following queries:

  1. Questions about this article.
  2. You want to find out who your nearest audiologist is.
  3. You would like advice about your current hearing aids or hearing loss.
  4. You would like to book an appointment for a hearing test.
  5. You are having problems with your existing hearing aids and can't be seen by your provider - we can take care of you.
  6. You have concerns about your hearing and think you may need to upgrade your hearing aids.
  7. Any other queries about hearing aids or hearing loss - we are here to support and assist you.
This article was written with the latest COVID-19 government audiology guidelines in mind by Paul Harrison - Hearing Aid UK's Founder

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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