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Royal National Institute for Deaf People Website

Department of Health Website


Friday 22nd November 2002


Health Minister, Jacqui Smith today named a further 17 NHS Trusts that will be trained and equipped to provide digital hearing aids to deaf and hard of hearing people, as part of a modernised hearing aid service.

Nearly a third of all audiology departments in the country are now providing digital hearing aids. This continues the programme of modernisation in hearing aid technology that began in August 2000 when 20 original sites were invited to take part in the project. A further 30 sites then joined the project in April 2002.

The first Trusts to join the project are already providing digital hearing aids as part of the modernised service. The rest will begin to use their new equipment before March 2003.

Each Trust is provided with the necessary IT and audiological equipment they will need in order to programme and fit digital hearing aids. Trust staff are then specially trained to use the equipment.

Jacqui Smith said:

"This is another major step in the modernisation of the hearing aid service, showing how well we are working with health communities throughout the country.

"We are maintaining our commitment and delivering on our promise to completely modernise and bring the hearing aid service people receive into the 21st Century.

"We have already invested more than £30 million in this project which is being enthusiastically welcomed by service users and hearing aid service providers alike."

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

"The announcement that a further 17 sites are to be upgraded is excellent news for hundreds of thousands of deaf and hard of hearing people. RNID has campaigned long and hard for the modernisation of NHS services and the introduction of digital hearing aids. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Department of Health to deliver this."

"We look forward to full rollout, across the NHS, so that all hearing aid users can benefit from a modern service and the latest technology. "

Notes to editors:

1. The following Trusts (and one PCT) will be provided with the training and equipment they need.

Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust (Adults)
Birmingham Heartlands Hospital NHS Trust
Central Manchester PCT (Children)
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
James Paget Healthcare NHS Trust (Children)*
Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (Children)
North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
North West London Hospitals NHS Trust
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (Adults)
South Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trusts (Adults)
St Helens and Knowsley Hospital NHS Trust (Adults)
Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust
Tameside and Glossop Acute Services NHS Trust
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust
West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust (Adults)*

* James Paget Hospital was already providing digital hearing aids to adults and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust was already providing them for children.

2. Digital hearing aids are able to vary the degree by which they amplify at different frequencies. The older analogue aids amplify sound across the board and so tend to amplify background noise as well as speech.

3. The project is being managed jointly by the Department of Health and RNID. The effects of digital hearing aids, and also of the modernised service and its closer focus on the patient's needs, are being evaluated by the Institute of Hearing Research. The results of this evaluation will be published in the New Year.

4. The Department of Health has set up a website with additional information on the project at

5. For media enquiries please contact Ben Lewis at the Department of Health media centre Tel: 020 7210 5315/5375/5231.