As clinics close due to coronavirus, our hearing specialists are making every effort to keep patients in the loop
Hospital hearing specialists have been pulling out the stops to ensure their patients do not miss out on vital services during the current coronavirus outbreak.
In recent weeks, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has been forced to cancel face-to-face appointments and outpatients clinics across many of its specialties, to try and halt the spread of the virus.
But while many services have been able to stay in touch with patients through telephone consultations, the trust’s audiology team have had to be a little more inventive when it comes to meeting their patient group’s needs.
Audiologist, Ziomarie Diaz explains:
“Since March 23rd, on the Government’s advice, we began cancelling our clinics in order to protect our staff and our patients from the spread of coronavirus.
“In total, we have cancelled around 20 audiology clinics per week which, ordinarily, would run at Hull Royal Infirmary, Castle Hill Hospital and in other community locations such as Bransholme, Beverley and Hornsea¹.
“Some hospital services are now carrying out telephone consultations, but the problems experienced by our patient group can make it difficult to conduct appointments over the phone. Instead, we’ve decided to make use of both old and new forms of communication to ensure our service continues running as normally as possible.
“For example, it’s helpful for people with hearing difficulties to be able to access written information which they can read and digest, so we have set up a text messaging service for patients to be able to send through any queries and receive a reply. Many patients will wait to ask questions at their appointment, but as we’re not physically seeing our patients right now, we don’t want people to feel that they have to wait if there’s something worrying them which we can help with.”
The audiology team has also launched a facebook page to keep in touch with its patients and parents of children who use the audiology service called Audiology Department HUTH. The page, www.facebook.com/audiologyhuth will be used to provide updates and generic advice, and accept direct messages from patients.
Crucially, the online medium will also allow audiology staff to upload pictures and video.
“We often rely on pictures and being able to show things to our patients in clinic because of their hearing difficulties, so being able to make and upload a video, or signpost to short clips of a hearing aid being fitted or general hearing aid maintenance, for example, will be invaluable for ourselves and our patients,” Ziomarie continues.
The audiology team will be keeping Royal Mail staff busy, as the team is operating a postal service for hearing aid batteries and repairs. Those living out of town can drop hearing aids which require repair or maintenance into one of ten community drop off points such as Alfred Bean Hospital and Hessle Town Hall², while replacement batteries can be requested via post, addressed to the team at Castle Hill. Around 70 repairs were sent through to the team in the first week of operation. Meanwhile, for residents living in the Cottingham area, the team is operating a ‘doorstep to doorstep’ collection and delivery service for hearing aid repairs, in order to avoid the need for patients to leave their homes to drop off their devices at Castle Hill Hospital.
Patients suffering with debilitating tinnitus are being offered their consultations and treatment advice remotely either by telephone or Skype by the tinnitus counsellor, based at East Riding Community Hospital.
And where direct contact remains essential, namely screening of newborn babies, the team – wearing appropriate PPE – is still making sure that babies identified with hearing loss are fitted with hearing aids promptly and can access speech and language services to aid normal speech and development.
“We know we’re not running our normal level of service at the moment, but these are unusual times and we fully appreciate the need for social distancing to protect our patients and frontline staff.
“We hope our patients will see that we’re trying to maintain continuity of care for them as far as possible, and that until normal service can resume, we’re only a message or a post away if they need us.”
Philip Vokes, Head of Audiology for the trust, says:
“I’m very proud of the whole team; they have come up with so many innovative solutions to help ensure hearing aid users in the community stay safe and have access to the speech and language services they need to support them during this period of social isolation.
“With the help of our IT Team, we’ve even continued with recruitment to the team by carrying out interviews for audiologists and an apprentice on Skype; this is so important at a time when we need as many hospital staff as possible at work to support the coronavirus effort.”
For regular updates on the audiology service, visit and either ‘like’ or ‘follow’ the trust’s audiology facebook page – www.facebook.com/audiologyHUTH
¹ Community clinics have been temporarily cancelled in the following locations: Bransholme, Withernsea, Marfleet, Driffield, Beverley and Hornsea.
² Hearing aid repair drop off points are currently located at:
- Alfred Bean Hospital, Driffield (reception)
- Hessle Town Hall
- Wilberforce Health Centre (entrance lobby)
- Bransholme Health Centre (reception, second floor)
- East Riding Community Hospital (outpatient entrance, between sliding doors)
- Hornsea Cottage Hospital – outpatient reception
- Longhill Health Centre (community services reception)
- Morrill Street Health Centre (community services reception)
- Withernsea Community Hospital (reception)
- Hull Royal Infirmary – admissions desk (ground floor)
Contact details for the Audiology Department:
Phone: 01482 468356
Text (SMS): 07799 895033