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Speaking to my patients about audiology

Head of audiology at Duncan and Todd Group, Alex Higgins, shares advice on introducing optical patients to hearing care as part of their recall screenings

09 Aug 2019 by Alex Higgins

In recent years, the health and wellbeing sector has seen a rise in audiology services, with market demand showing that customers expect to be able to access a hearing care check-up alongside their regular eye screening.

As an independent optician, the Duncan and Todd Group has been part of this movement since introducing audiology services to its patients across Scotland over 18 months ago. We now offer hearing care services across 34 branches, delivered by a team of 15 audiologists, and have invested in providing a dedicated space for audiology appointments, as well as an in-house staff training programme.

Aimed predominately at patients over the age of 40, we promote our audiology service as a quick ear screening that patients should include in their annual optical check-up.

“By targeting those aged 40 and above, we are looking to lessen the stigma, making it something that patients are used to hearing and talking about before they may or may not suffer such loss”


Making hearing care ‘normal’

It’s important as hearing care is rolled out across practices, that everyone within the practice is comfortable with introducing and discussing hearing loss and solutions with patients.

A lot of this is about normalising hearing loss. Our reason for targeting patients over the age of 40 is to encourage this as a normal routine check, so if there is ever a time where they might need something, it comes as no great shock.

With more than 40% of people over 50 years old suffering from hearing loss, rising to 71% of people over the age of 70; the stigma attached to hearing loss is reducing significantly. By targeting those aged 40 and above, we are looking to lessen the stigma, making it something that patients are used to talking about before they may or may not suffer such loss.

We have instated this normality by adapting all recall letters to patients, informing patients that those over the age of 40 will receive hearing screening as part of their optical check-up. However, this is open to anyone over the age of 16 who may request it.

Ease of appointments

As well as making appointments easily accessible, the free examinations are pain and hassle free. The initial screening, which can be carried out by the optician or the dispensing staff, takes just two minutes and will usually be done at the end of an optical test.

If required, a full hearing assessment takes around 75 minutes. A specially trained audiologist will ask a series of medical and lifestyle questions for background information, as well as checking the health of the patient’s ears.

The examination can also include demonstrating hearing loss technology on the patient. Much like a lens can be used to show how glasses can improve vision, hearing aids and wearable technology can be used to show the benefits of using these to the patient.

“Much like a lens can be used to show how glasses can improve vision, hearing aids and wearable technology can be used to show the benefits of using these to the patient”


Listen and advise

Like an eye examination, results are instant, and the on-site audiologist will then talk the patient through the best steps for moving forward.

With every patient, it’s important to listen and understand from them where the main area of difficulty is and be able to identify and relate to the results. This might include something as simple as not hearing the television as well, or more complex issues such as struggling to hear family members or friends around them.

Bearing these factors in mind, the audiologist can offer help and advice on all options available for treatment, including NHS and private hearing solutions that relate to the patient’s needs and environments.

It makes sense

Our aim is to effectively help and manage the process from beginning to end. With audiology services being a fairly new area for optical practices, we want to build an effective service that leaves the patient reassured and aware of options out there, should they require further assistance.

We’re trying to make these appointments as seamless and easy a transition as possible, helping our patients to look after all their vital senses.


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