Manchester led research could lead to step-change in NHS hearing aid provision
Cutting-edge research being led by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), aimed at increasing adult hearing aid use, could make a dramatic change to people with hearing loss.
The study ‘Follow-up and structured monitoring for adults offered an NHS hearing aid for the first time (FAMOUS): a cluster randomised controlled trial’ is a major collaboration of the NIHR’s three BRCs with specialist hearing themes: Manchester, Nottingham and University College London Hospital (UCLH). The key aim of the research is to understand and resolve the thousands of instances of low-use of hearing aids in adults with hearing loss.
Professor Kevin Munro, NIHR Manchester BRC Hearing Health Lead and Professor of Audiology at The University of Manchester said: “Hearing loss is the most common sensory problem in the world, experienced by one in six people in the UK. Every year in the UK around 355,000 adults are fitted with hearing aids for the first time, at a cost of £450 million to the NHS.
“We know that hearing aids improve communication and quality of life in adults with hearing loss, however, our previous research has shown that 30 per cent of people given hearing aids don’t use them as often as recommended and a further 20 per cent don’t use them at all.”
Hearing loss has significant impact on communication, well-being, quality of life and economic independence (including employment) and left untreated may increase the risk of developing mental health and cognitive problems.
This research aims to increase hearing aid use – testing efficient and cost-effective measures to encourage and support this.
To increase the amount of time that new users wear their hearing aids, the researchers, in collaboration with patient and public panels have devised a four step strategy (intervention) for audiologists and people with hearing loss. The strategy includes encouraging patients to reflect on situations in which hearing is difficult and where hearing aids may help, and an individualised action plan to reinforce where and when to use the hearing aids.
The three year, multi-centre study will recruit around 6,000 adults who will either follow the new strategy to improve hearing aid use or the current care plan, when fitted with a hearing aid. The primary aim is to learn if the intervention results in a higher level of hearing aid use one year after initial fitting compared to adults who receive the current standard care.
The research is sponsored by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and grant funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme. The HTA funds research around the clinical and cost-effectiveness and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS and social care services.
Professor David Baguley, NIHR Nottingham BRC Deputy Hearing Theme Lead said: “This grant success represents a step-change in research into hearing aid provision in the UK, and the breadth and depth of the project is unprecedented in Audiology. The benefit of hearing aids come when worn in the ear, not when kept in a drawer, and this work to optimise pathways of NHS hearing aid follow-up holds great promise. The Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit, the BRC Hearing theme, and University of Nottingham Hearing Sciences will be working in close partnership with the NIHR Manchester and UCL BRC Hearing Themes to deliver this transformational and innovative trial.”
Anne Schilder Professor and Director NIHR UCLH BRC Hearing Theme and National Specialty Lead of the NIHR Clinical Research Network ENT said: “We are looking forward to working with audiologists from NHS hearing aid services across the UK. Their involvement will not only drive the success of this research but also the uptake of the evidence it produces into future hearing practice.