Adult hearing services

Hearing loss can affect adults of all ages but is particularly common in older people. With an ageing population, by 2035, there are estimated to be 15.6 million people with hearing loss in the UK.

Service delivery: Patients with suspected or actual hearing loss who require a full clinical audiological assessment can be referred directly by their GP to the secondary level specialist centre. Audiovestibular physicians take a holistic approach to management and treatment, and are involved in the medical diagnosis, aetiological investigation and management of patients. Clear guidelines and criteria for referral to more specialist services, eg audiovestibular physicians or ENT specialists, are a necessity. Facilities for medical investigations (opens PDF, 200.19KB) and local pathways with access to a range of professionals, (eg ENT specialists, ophthalmologists, neurologists and rheumatologists). The initial assessment can also be carried out by a specifically trained audiologist, according to BAA guidelines (opens PDF, 52.94KB), in a community-based audiology service. This service provides assessment and support for simple cases only, such as presbyacusis (normal age-related hearing loss) and monitoring of hearing thresholds in stable conditions.

Workforce: Medical professionals with training in aetiological investigations and auditory disorders in the adult population, eg audiovestibular physicians and ENT specialists. The specialist and supra-specialist services consist of a multiprofessional team including an audiovestibular physician, audiologists, hearing therapists or audiologist with hearing rehabilitation skills, clinical psychologist, speech and language therapists and possibly psychiatrist. New patients usually require 30–45 minutes and follow-up patients 15–20 minutes.

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