• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

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Caregivers to be Vocal About Hearing


Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 13.42.46Caregivers are failing to identify hearing loss in people with learning disabilities, severely impacting on their quality of life.

A pilot study conducted by a senior clinical scientist has shown that caregivers for people with learning disabilities (PWLD) are lacking the training to identify hearing loss, which can make a significant difference to the individual’s quality of life.

Lynzee McShea works in the Audiology Department at Sunderland Royal Hospital. As part of her University of Sunderland research she created an award winning training programme designed to empower carers to identify problems, and refer those they support to their GP.

The programme follows her research in 2013 that revealed fewer than 10 per cent of carers had concerns about hearing loss – but that 90 per cent of PWLD she assessed tested positive for hearing loss.

As well as providing them with a fresh perspective, crucially all of the adults with learning disabilities that were referred by their caregivers as part of the study were found to have some kind of need that would not have otherwise been identified.

Following the positive results from the pilot study, the training package Lynzee designed has now been selected by NHS Innovations North for further development and production, and last week won a major national prize in the 2015 Advancing Healthcare Awards.

Lynzee, who is studying a Professional Doctorate at the University of Sunderland, said: “The training they received gave them the opportunity to reflect on their old practice, which many described as ‘habit’ or ‘routine’. Their new knowledge allowed them to review and evaluate their existing practice.

“It also gave confidence to those caregivers who suspected a problem but didn’t think there could be a solution, as there are assessment techniques possible in Audiology to diagnose individuals with even the most complex of needs.”

The pilot study involved 44 individuals who were trained across six facilities in Sunderland, each run by either the local council or a social care charity. Activities were chosen to mix group discussion, visual learning and individual written tasks, in order to appeal to all learning styles.

Real-life examples and stories were used as much as possible to bring to life the principles being discussed and to encourage person-centred care. This provided a safe environment for staff to challenge poor care and reflect on their own practice.

At the end of each two hour session participants were asked to “make a difference” by writing pledges; something they would do or consider as a result of the training. Follow up visits to each home were completed 3 – 6 months post training and 96% of pledges made had already been completed.

The latest study by Lynzee is a product of her previous research project at the University of Sunderland which found that people with learning disabilities are more likely to suffer from hearing loss than the general population, but are less likely to have their problem diagnosed.

The report, Hearing loss in people with learning disabilities (McShea, 2013) was published in the British Journal of Healthcare Assistants and claimed that 90 per cent of PWLD she has assessed have been diagnosed with hearing loss, despite fewer than 10 per cent of caregivers having any concerns regarding hearing prior to consultation.

Lynzee added: “Better hearing is so important and we have powerful evidence of the difference hearing aids can make. By giving caregivers the knowledge and confidence to detect hearing problems and manage hearing aids, they can significantly improve the quality of life of people they support, in ways they had not previously considered.”

By admin