There are simple steps you can take to help you to identify hearing loss, communicate with your patients better, and maintain their hearing aids so that they get the best out of them.
Using a hearing loss support kit
If a hearing loss support kit is available on the ward, it can help you to recognise when a patient has hearing loss and to support them so that their care isn’t affected by communication difficulties. You can use the kit to help you with:
- hearing loss screening
- hearing aid maintenance.
Depending on what your Trust provides, a hearing loss support kit usually contains:
- A hearing check screener to be used as part of the admissions process, or when hearing loss is suspected. If the screening result indicates that the patient has hearing loss, they can be referred for further assessment.
- A personal listener that comes with headphones, a neckloop and a user guide for the listener. A personal listener can help patients with hearing aids if they set them to the loop setting and use the neckloop. If the patient doesn’t have hearing aids, the listener can be used on its own, with the headphones.
- A hearing aid maintenance kit with hearing aid components and cleaning materials that staff trained in hearing aid maintenance can use to make sure that patients get the best out of their hearing aids.
Some hearing loss support kits will also have screening and hearing aid maintenance logbooks, GP referral letters and other useful resources to help you.
How you should record a patient’s hearing loss
When you’re caring for a person with hearing loss, it’s important to record their hearing difficulties in their handwritten or electronic patient notes, and in their communication care plan, if available. Where information about patients is recorded on whiteboards, hearing loss should be included.
If a personal listener is used to make it easier to communicate with a patient, or a patient has been screened for hearing loss, this should also be recorded in their notes, particularly if a referral to hearing services or an ear, nose and throat specialist has been made. You can also record when hearing aid maintenance is carried out.
Providing hearing aid storage boxes
Hearing aids can easily be lost on busy hospital wards. If your Trust provides hearing aid storage boxes to help keep hearing aids safe, you should use the following standard operating procedure for cleaning them:
- The storage box (and laminated card) should be cleaned as required and every time a new patient uses the box, using Clinell sanitising wipes.
- In exceptional cases, where infection is suspected, Chlorclean, which is made up in cold water, is to be used, or the box disposed of.
Using a hearing loss champion
Some Trusts have a policy of having staff who are ‘champions’ in different disciplines – for example, dementia, dignity, diversity. Find out if your Trust has a hearing loss champion (sometimes called a ‘link worker’) and seek them out if you feel you need guidance or support around hearing loss.
If there isn’t currently a hearing loss champion in your Trust, could someone step into this role?
If you have more questions about caring for patients with hearing loss, see our good nursing practice Q&A.