Oh, for the Love of Analogue!

13 08 2010

The digital switch over. No, not with TV, Cable, and set-top boxes. This time with ears, hearing and hearing aids, and consequently jobs, hobbies, relationships and essentially lives. Sometimes we know a problem exists, and even know that one day it will have a direct impact on us, but still we often don’t do anything about it until it actually comes knocking on our door. It’s easy to regret that, but sometimes it’s just the way it is.

Anyway, I think this letter to the head of my local audiology department explains the rest:

6th August 2010

Dear Miss ,

On 3rd August 2010 I attended Audiology at Medway Hospital in order to firstly have a hearing test, and then to have a digital hearing aid fitted. Although I was extremely happy with the service from both the Student Audiologist, and the supervising Senior Audiologist, I nonetheless feel the need to contact you to discuss firstly my disappointment with the aid itself, and also the fact that I have been forced, by Medway NHS, to give up my analogue hearing aid and start wearing a digital one. For your information, I was told during my last appointment that I have a “sloping high frequency hearing loss”, described as severe to profound in the higher frequencies.

I was given my first hearing aid at the age of approximately six years. It would appear my hearing was damaged whilst suffering from an illness some years earlier. Although the initial period of adapting to having a hearing aid was difficult, this was bearable due to the fact that there was a noticeable, positive difference. I was suddenly able to hear, and interact with my peers to a much greater extent, and was also able to benefit more from my education.

I am now 29 years old, and have worn my analogue hearing aid all day, every day since first being fitted with one, approximately 23 years ago. In that time I have managed to complete my education in a mainstream setting, obtain ten GCSE’s, 2 A Levels, and a professional Social Work qualification (Diploma in Social Work). I am currently employed by the Local Authority as a Social Worker, specialising in working with disabled children. I have also been able to learn to play guitar, and sing in bands and have played live in front of crowds of people.

All of these achievements have been made possible for me due to my analogue hearing aid, which I have always been extremely grateful for. Without the hearing aid, I am unable to hold a conversation without lip reading, let alone perform in a band. Also, without my aid all I really hear is lower frequencies, therefore my hearing aid has been absolutely vital in giving me access to the world around me. I am extremely frustrated therefore to hear that it would appear analogue hearing aids are no longer deemed by the Medway NHS Trust as being adequate, and have consequently been replaced by digital models. I would be very interested to know what level of consultation took place with patients before the decision to phase out analogue aids was made? As a user of audiology services for the past 23 years, I certainly do not recall being asked what my thoughts on this matter were. It would also be interesting to know why it is seemingly impossible to supply both analogue and digital aids.

I was first told about the fact that analogue hearing aids were being phased out by Medway about two years ago, during a visit to your department. The audiologist spent some time on that occasion trying to set me up with various different digital models, before eventually admitting that actually none of the available models were quite suited to my particular type or level of loss. I regret the fact that I did not dedicate more time to fighting the decision to switch to digital at that point. I guess to some extent I hoped the problem would go away, but this is obviously not the case.

Since being given my new digital hearing aid, I have had to take two days sick leave from work due to the fact that I quite simply could not cope with the change in how the world sounded. This has caused me vast amounts of stress and anxiety, not least due to feeling as though I am letting both my colleagues and services users down by not being available to them. In my opinion this would have been completely unnecessary if analogue hearing aids were still readily available to patients of audiology departments. Using the new aid I cannot bear the sound of my own voice. Other’s voices sound distorted and unclear. Ambient noise within rooms has been suppressed, leaving what remains sounding false, as though being heard through headphones. Other random sounds appear highly amplified for no apparent reason. A trip to the local supermarket was completely unbearable, meaning I had to remove the aid completely. The only positive in this situation was that thankfully I didn’t need to speak to anyone within the shop, as this would have been impossible.

I am very grateful that at the appointment I attended I was told I could keep my analogue aid. Otherwise I would be completely lost, unable to go to work, engage in conversation, play guitar or cope in general with day to day life, and all because of a decision that was made on my behalf (yet without my consultation), that digital hearing aids are better than their analogue predecessors.

I fully understand how it is often necessary, when someone has a new digital hearing aid, to have further adjustments made at a later date. I also know that it takes time for the brain to adjust to changes that are made. However I do not feel able or willing to adjust to changes in my hearing which in this instance equate to accepting less than I had before. So far, being denied access to analogue hearing aids, and having to accept digital devices has made me more disabled than I previously was. In my opinion, changes in a patients treatment should be in their best interests, whereas this particular change is most certainly not.

I have recently been made aware of some cases where refurbished analogue hearing aids have been given to patients. It would be helpful to know why this has not been offered to me, when I have clearly expressed that I do not wish to change to digital. I am also aware, and a quick search online clearly shows, that there are a lot of people who continue to struggle with digital hearing aids, and would be ecstatic to have their analogues aids back. I would be very interested to know what plans the NHS has for those people, myself included who do not feel they are suited to digital hearing aids, and perhaps most important those who want to stick to what has served them very well over many years. The website for the NHS clearly shows the slogan “Your Health, Your Choices”. Why does this not apply to hearing aid users?

I apologise for the length of this letter, but hope it has helped to show you the extent of my frustration with the situation I now find myself in. Having worked hard, and achieved a lot, with my analogue hearing aids I now feel as though it is being assumed that I am not capable of choosing how to cope with my disability. My analogue hearing aids have served me extremely well, and I hope you can see why I am unhappy about having to change to what, in my opinion, is a substandard replacement.

I hope you will find the time to respond to this letter, and give your opinions on some of the issues I have raised. I would also be happy to meet with you to discuss the way forward on these matters, if you wish to do so.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Oates.

This letter should now have been received by the audiology department. In the past week  here at Operation Analogue HQ we have been working hard to get a campaign going to get the NHS to keep analogue hearing aids available on the NHS. Much more information can be found on Mrs O’s Blog, this Facebook page and this thread on the RNID forum

We would love to have you on board.

Thank you so much for reading. There will be more news very soon.

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9 responses

14 08 2010
Oh, for the Love of Analogue! (via Sender Says…..) | Mrs O's Blog

[…] The digital switch over. No, not with TV, Cable, and set-top boxes. This time with ears, hearing and hearing aids, and consequently jobs, hobbies, relationships and essentially lives. Sometimes we know a problem exists, and even know that one day it will have a direct impact on us, but still we often don't do anything about it until it actually comes knocking on our door. It's easy to regret that, but sometimes it's just the way it is. Anyway, I … Read More […]

14 08 2010
Jack Picknell

I do sincerely hope that your campaign works and the NHS live up to their slogan “Your health, your choices”. Your letter is excellent, I don’t see that you needed to apologise for the length of it, after all, the subject is the lenght of the rest of your life!

Good luck

Jack

15 08 2010
Reavsey

A great letter Rew. I hope you get what you need.

Good luck.

15 08 2010
rewoates

Thanks for all you comments and support so far. Please continue to suggest this campaign to friends, family, anyone you like really. Thanks, Much Love XXX

20 08 2010
Tootech

I’m not against what you are asking for, and I hope it works out for all the analogue aid users out there.

Reading the blog and reading the debate on the RNID forum it occurred to me that certain professional bodies are getting the blame for the mass take over of digital aids. I don’t think it is anyone’s fault, certainly most people meet new technology with a degree of expectation that it will cure some of the ills of older technology. I would put money on it that hearing aid technology was no different.

The facts however have shown that there are a significant number of people that have a preference for analogue ‘older’ technology.

It is no one’s fault, not the RNID, not the NHS really, it has been a gamble that didn’t pay off for some people and one that has worked for others. Please please think about refraining from blaming those that wanted a better world for deaf/partially deaf people, and if any blame can be shown, blame the technology not living up to expectations. I for one will be much happier supporting your cause from that angle.

20 08 2010
rewoates

Hello Tootech. Yes, certain professional bodies are getting the blame in this debate. For example, the DOH and the RNID. That’s not unfair. They’re getting the blame because they steamed ahead towards “progress” whilst completely leaving behind an entire section of the deaf community (i.e those who weren’t born deaf, or anyone else who truly appreciates the benefits of analogue hearing aids). As you mention, “the facts have shown that there are a significant number of people that have a preference for analogue ‘older’ technology”. If that is the case then why are the organisations involved ignoring such facts?
I’m not blaming anyone that “wanted a better world”, be it for deaf or hearing people. I’m blaming people for saying they wanted a better world, then completely ignoring the benefits of the world we already had, and leaving a certain part of the population significantly worse off than they ever were.

24 08 2010
Susan Tinsley

A letter after my own heart. I too suffer from high frequency hearing loss and have done since birth. The digital aid I received was lauded by the audiology department, I was told I would hear more sounds than I originally did and that it was the way to go. Wrong! Oh how I wish I still had my analogue aids as I could hear conversations without having to lipread as well. Not any more, I need to lipread because I don’t hear the conversation as well as I could. This does nothing for morale and confidence. I asked for another hearing test because I was convinced I had lost some hearing but the result was the same as always which brings me to the conclusion that its the digital aid that is at fault.

24 08 2010
Kathi

I am extremely disappointed in the digital aids and the companies’ want to do away completely with the analog ones. I always could hear SO much better with the analog and now with this one, I struggle every day to try to hear what people are saying and really having to fall back on reading people’s lips. Unfortunately, not everyone’s lips can be read very well. To top it all off, I had a cochlear implant done in 2004 on my worse ear and to this day, am not doing well with it. I try to wear this with my hearing aid and I’m totally out in left field, especially in a group setting. I asked my audiologist why the analog aids are being phased out and he said because the companies feel the digital ones are better. Better according to who? According to the people who have their hearing???

24 08 2010
rewoates

Kathi and Susan,
Thanks so much for taking the time to read the blog and post comments. I’m
so sorry to hear you can’t get on with digital hearing aids, and I guess all I can say is that I completely understand. I find it somewhat insulting being told by audiologists that digital hearing aids are better, when I can clearly hear less than I could with my analogue! It’s completely unfair that the NHS should be able to get away with making people more disabled like this.

Please feel free to join our facebook page, if you haven’t done so already. It would also be worth asking friends and family to join the campaign, as any change in your hearing effects you, and also those around you. We need to get as many people on board with the campaign as possible, if we are going to succeed in getting the NHS/DOH to listen.

Thanks Again,

Rew X

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