Long wait for hearing aids in county

PEOPLE with hearing difficulties in east Suffolk face a far longer wait to be supplied with a hearing aid than almost anywhere else in the country.New figures uncovered by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) show those in Ipswich and the east of the county wait an average of 78 weeks from the time they are referred by their GP.

PEOPLE with hearing difficulties in east Suffolk face a far longer wait to be supplied with a hearing aid than almost anywhere else in the country.

New figures uncovered by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) show those in Ipswich and the east of the county wait an average of 78 weeks from the time they are referred by their GP.

The shocking figure is more than three times the national average waiting time, of 22 weeks, and a spokesman for the charity said the delays could condemn those in the most urgent need to isolation, exclusion and depression.

Ipswich hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said a strong demand for the aids, due to an ageing population in the county, was partly to blame for the long waiting times.

She said: “There are two types of hearing aid - a digital type and an analogue type, and demand for the newer digital types is very high.

“We are working hard to bring the wait down for people who need them, there is a priority to get them to children and young people, and former members of the armed forces.

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“People who have hearing difficulties which they need help with, but which are not clinically urgent, may have to wait longer.”

Government targets say that by December 2008, no one should have to wait more than 18 weeks for a hearing aid, and Mrs Rowsell said the hospital was confident it will meet that aim.

This target has already been met for patients in the west of the county, where there is an average waiting time of 17 weeks.

Caroline Tuohy, director of commissioning and performance at Suffolk Primary Care Trust, said: “We recognise there have been some significant waits for people needing hearing aids, and we have been working hard with our local hospitals to reduce them as quickly as possible.

“In some parts of the county we have made some significant improvements and patients are already being fitted with new hearing aids well within the national 18-week target.

“The PCT Board has agreed to invest an extra £400,000 in audiology services over the next three months, ensuring that by March 2008 all people across the county are treated within 18 weeks.”

Norfolk and Norwich PCT was rated joint best in the country, with patients there waiting an average of just four weeks from being referred to a specialist, to being supplied with a hearing aid.

Anyone who is concerned about their hearing can take the RNID telephone hearing check by calling 0845 600555.

Have you had a long wait for a hearing aid? Call The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

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