Skip navigationals



Royal National Institute for Deaf People Website

Department of Health Website


Friday 7 February 2003


1.8 million people to benefit from the latest digital hearing technology

The Government will today <Friday 7th February 2003> announce an investment of £94 million to complete the modernisation of hearing aid services across England over the next two years.

Since 2000 the Government has funded the modernisation of selected sites in England and the announcement today will ensure that modernisation of NHS audiology services is completed throughout England.

Dr John Low, Chief Executive of RNID welcomed the announcement:

“This is excellent news for deaf and hard of hearing people who have been demanding better hearing aids for many years. Audiology has for too long been the Cinderella service of the NHS. Today’s announcement means that at last there will be a world class audiology service in England, and that digital hearing aids are within the reach of those who need them.

“The modernised audiology service will be based on digital hearing technology which transforms the lives of people with hearing difficulties. Digital hearing aids offer an immensely better clarity of hearing, not possible with traditional aids. Research shows that digital aids offer patients a 40 per cent improvement in hearing and quality of life.”

There are currently 1.8 million hearing aid users in the England who stand to benefit from this programme.

Modernising hearing aid services became a Government priority after a sustained campaign by RNID and its supporters. Prior to modernisation only outdated 1970s analogue hearing aids were available on the NHS, digital hearing aids were available privately at a cost of up to £2000.

Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, said:

“The sustained investment we are now making in the NHS means that we can extend the availability of digital hearing aids across the country. The result is better services for deaf people and those who are hard of hearing.

“This is just the latest example of where investment coupled to reform of how services are delivered, can bring real benefits for patients. By keeping up the investment and putting in place the reforms, we are making steady progress towards the modern health service our nation needs.”

The £94 million will be distributed over the next two years. The RNID has been appointed to manage the allocation of the funds and the modernisation on behalf of the Department of Health, in the first partnership of its of kind between the Government and a voluntary organisation. It is expected that by April 2005 all audiology departments in England will be routinely fitting digital hearing aids.


Further information: To find out more about the Modernising Hearing Aids Services programme, visit which includes a list of audiology services already modernised.

Media contact: Please contact RNID Media Relations Team on 020 7296 8137 (voice and text) for a fact sheet or further information.

Notes to editors:

1. Modernisation of Audiology services in England started in 2000. To date 66 NHS Trust have been allocated funding to upgrade their audiology services. The new allocation will make it possible for all NHS Trust to have a modernised service. PCTs are required to make a small investment into their audiology services to enable all patients in their areas to benefit from the latest digital hearing aids.

2. On Wednesday 5 February 2003 the Scottish Executive announced an £8 million investment into modernising audiology services across Scotland. This is in addition to £1.5 million announced in January for audiology equipment. The Health Service in Northern Ireland has pledged £2.5 million to modernise audiology services by March 2004. In 2001 The Welsh Assembly announced funding to modernise of all their audiology services.

3. Digital hearing aid technology offers significant advances for people with hearing difficulties. The latest digital technology has been applied to hearing aids which can be adjusted to meet patients’ individual requirement. Research has shown that these new aids offer a 40 per cent improvement in patient’s hearing and quality of life.

4. Cameras wishing to film a modernised NHS Audiology department may attend the King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor & Maidenhead Primary Care Trust, Windsor between 11am–12pm on Friday 7 February 2003. Call Martin Leaver on 07966 174 183 to confirm.

5. RNID is the largest charity representing the needs of nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. As a membership charity, RNID aims to achieve a radically better quality of life for deaf and hard of hearing people by campaigning and lobbying vigorously, by raising awareness of deafness and hearing loss, by providing services and through social, medical and technical research.

6. For more information about RNID, visit: or contact RNID’s Information Line on 0808 808 0123 (freephone) or 0808 808 9000 (textphone) or email: