The NHS makes me feel like a drain on resources

Danielle Davies, Deaf Social Work Student

Danielle Davies, Deaf Social Work Student

I am 20 years old, a University student studying for my degree in Social Work. I am severely hard of hearing and have worn two hearing aids since birth. I am not blind to the harsh cuts the NHS has faced over the past few years and I understand we have been in a financial crisis under the previous coalition government. However, I have never in the past 20 years seen these cuts affect the service that I receive from the NHS, especially in audiology, the department I receive my hearing aid support from.

Not until now. I want to tell you about my experience a couple of weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, I made an appointment at my local audiology department at the hospital in my local town. This appointment was to have new moulds fitted for my ‘in the ear’ hearing aids. I went into the consultation room and I explained that I needed some new hearing aid moulds due to the current mould rubbing me severely. The moulds had also become discoloured and not very presentable. No hearing aid user likes to wear yellow looking moulds that look mouldy and unpleasant. It is natural that the moulds discolour and I usually stick it out long enough in till they are that bad they need changing.

The audiologist looked at the fit of the aids in my ear and the hearing aid itself. He stated that there was no need for new ones to be made as they fitted well and I had already had new moulds made a year ago. I explained that 6 months to a year seemed usual to come in for new hearing aid moulds. The audiologist stated that now I am in adult services replacements are every 2 years and not as regularly as they would have been in children’s services.

I did not know how else to respond to this but to sit in silence. I had never been told that was now eligible for new moulds every 2 years and not yearly. I was still confused as I had explained to the audiologist that the moulds had discoloured and rubbed me, regardless of how long ago I had new ones. The audiologist stated that on this one occasion he would fit new moulds.

After that the audiologist asked ‘do you know how much hearing aids moulds cost?’ to which I replied I didn’t know. The audiologist stated ‘they cost between £15 to £20 for the moulds and this is very expensive, the money comes out of adult services budgets’. What was going through my head was ‘are you trying to make me feel bad for coming to my appointment and asking for new moulds because my current ones have left me in discomfort’? I was made to feel like a drain on NHS resources and that I was using money unnecessarily, however this was not the case.

Following the moulds being made, the audiologist explained that I would be telephoned to come in and have an appointment to have them fitted. However, as I have fitted my own hearing aids for the past few years I asked if the moulds could be posted instead. The audiologist stated that we do not post them as ‘that costs money and it isn’t cheap for postage’. I pointed out that for years now I have had them sent in the post, but agreed I could come in and have them fitted if they weren’t going to post them. The audiologist stated we only post them to our university students, as I was a student living away, the audiologist agreed to post them on this occasion.

Again I felt like I had to justify myself to the audiologist.

It was also clear that my records weren’t read and my hearing loss understood, because when the moulds were being made and left to harden in my ear, the audiologist started to talk to me. For people who don’t know, to make new moulds the hearing aids have to be taken out for a few minutes. You wait patiently until the solution is hardened and ready to be taken out of the ear and you put your hearing aids back in.

As a professional in audiology I would expect the audiologist to have read my records and check my level of hearing before he tried to communicate with me verbally when I did not have my hearing aids in. I had no idea what was said but nodded and pretended I could hear him – I felt devalued.

I was born with a hearing loss due to sensorineural nerve damage but I have never experienced this feeling in the 20 years I have been using the services. I was not advocated and was alone on this visit. The reason I wanted to write my story was because I want people to understand that you should never feel like you are a burden, scrounger or drain on the NHS.

I will be qualified as a social worker in 12 months and will be paying taxes in which will help fund care that I need. I feel that no one who is hard of hearing or deaf should be spoken to about budgets, cuts and costs on their appointments. I walked away from that appointment wanting to use private services. I want to be proud of using NHS services – I have received extraordinary support for many years from some great audiologists and in writing this I do not want to undermine their amazing work and efforts.

Finally, I completely understand why postage services are being cut and why moulds need to be changed every 2 years and not more regularly. However, it is important that every deaf and hard of hearing patient has these changes explained. I walked out of that appointment feeling undeserving of new hearing aid moulds, I felt that I was using NHS budgets unnecessarily and I did not feel proud to be deaf.

It wasn’t in till I got home and explained this to my mother and older sister, who were appalled at my experience, that it made me want to make other people feel empowered. I want all audiologists to be approachable and provide advice in a manner of professionalism, to understand their patients hearing and to never let them walk out feeling devalued.

Please take a message from this…be proud of who you are and your disability, tell your story, because just writing this made me feel amazing to have spoken out.

21 thoughts on “The NHS makes me feel like a drain on resources

  1. How awful for you. In my opinion as a retired audiology professional. That Audiologist needs to be reported and reprimanded. There are beautiful coloured hearing aids and lovely pastel shades and sparkly ear moulds available for young people of your age. Some departments are allowed to offer these to patients others are not. However, they are of course available in the private sector. Whilst writing, I am wondering if you have considered a Cochlear Implant?

    Liked by 1 person

    • How awful you had this experience with this audiologist, how unprofessional to talk to you in the dismissive and rude manner. I work in the NHS and know this is not a acceptable way to make a patient feel , or to be spoken down to . You have every right to the service , and every right to walk away feeling you had a good experience on your visit. I really wish you had reported this person , I’m sure his manager would have wanted to know of your experience and how this made you feel .

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  2. A sad experience for you to have gone through and I hope you do not experience this type of service again. It is important that poor service is highlighted but I would like to say to anyone reading this that this is not typical of the service you would receive in many audiology departments in the UK. I understand you felt compelled to write about your awful experience but I would have liked that balanced by writing about some of the great experiences you have received up until this point over the past 20 years. (unless there have not been any) I feel sad as a professional that people will think this is how they would be treated if they needed the help of an audiologist. Let’s also highlight the great service you hopefully received prior to this incident.

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    • Try paragraph 10, she does say that she has received wonderful support up till now, but regardless of that it only takes on bad professional to make a person with a disability feel this way and your right it shouldn’t reflect on all the good ones but sadly that one leaves a bitter taste, I’m sure there are plenty of stories about the good things audiology do, is this a reflection on the state of our NHS or just a doctor having a bad day, either way its not acceptable

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  3. What a horrible experience.
    I think that you need to complain about this particular individual as I highly doubt that’s the standard of care that is given by others in that department or field. I have a heart problem and turned up to an important appointment with an invidual that had not only not read my notes but clearly had no clue what he was talking about as he tried to tell me my heart condition was linked to a thyroid issue which it wasn’t. But I complained and got an apology from my original consultant who made sure he saw me on my next visit!!!
    Definitely complain so this can be dealt with!

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  4. Go private! I’m a private hearing aid dispenser and would treat you professionally and with respect. It’s not true what people say…we are only out to make a sale. I love what I do and customer service is extremely high up on my agenda! I also used to be a communication support worker for deaf students too, so can sign and lip speak! I did 9 months in the NHS and left because I didn’t feel that I could devote the time and effort into each patient as I wanted too, whereas privately gave me the tools to do this. Cutbacks in a service should NEVER be pushed into the person accessing it! I’m upset that you were treated this way.

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  5. I think this is outrageous! Something should be done, it’s compulsory that they make reasonable adjustments for deaf people; following the equality act 2010 but sounds like they’re discriminating!

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  6. Reblogged this on Day in the life of a deafie and commented:
    I posted this on Facebook and some of the comments I got made me realise how outrageous this service that the audiologist gave.

    “That audiologist was cruel and unprofessional and I would report him”

    “Without deaf/hoh people, he would be out of a job”

    Something should be done about this, otherwise they would just get away with it and other deaf people will suffer. Let’s put a stop to this behaviour!

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  7. So you received bad treatment from a single appointment at your local audiology department, and your response is not to raise this with the audiologist in question, the department, or even the hospital, but to start a witch hunt on social media.
    And you want a career in social work.
    I truly hope than none of your future patients follow your lead.

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    • I’m sorry but as Danielle’s sister I am outraged by this comment. ‘Good luck with life’? How dare you take that sarcastic tone. She has faced enough diversity in her life without people like you criticising her and putting her down even more. Unfortunately, what Danielle did not state is that she has had issues with the NHS from being a child. As a small child the doctors she would see would refuse to treat her because she used to kick out and get upset and confused about what was going on. These issues have been looked into. As a result, the NDCS helped look after Danielle and offered her private health care services. She isn’t saying the NHS is all bad. The hospital concerned hasn’t been named, nor have the responsible doctors. She is simply trying to raise awareness of some of the problems she has faced in hope that she can make a change. She should be considered brave for speaking out, she does not deserve your mockery or ill wishes.

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    • It’s not a terribly effective witch hunt, is it? She doesn’t mention the audiologist, the hospital or even the town or general geographic area concerned.

      This may have been a single experience but it coincides with a shift in political climate that tends towards painting people with disabilities as a drain on resources so it’s not invalid to use it at a talking point. It WOULD have been inappropriate to name the audiologist involved, but that didn’t happen.

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    • A witch hunt ? What a ridiculous statement ! Why should this girl not say how she was made to feel by this so called professional. I personally think she will make a fantastic social worker , she sounds articulut and careing , and has the ability to speak up for what she believes to be a wrong. So in the future this will benefit her clients she will be speaking for . ( note I said clients, not patients as you wrongly stated ! )

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    • What a pointless comment luckily you are the minority here.Good on you Danielle all the best for a better experience with the audiologist during your next appointment.

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    • I don’t think you need to be so harsh either. And I don’t think this is a ‘witch hunt’ Sometimes the patient/specialist relationship disempowers the best of us. Maybe Daniele will write to the hospital which would be my advice.

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  8. Well said Carly. My daughter is 26 and has the same nerve damage as Danielle and has a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. What disgusting behaviour from that audiologist and I agree he should be reported. Why did he feel the need to tell you how much they cost? A simple ‘I’m sorry we only replace them every 2 years for Adults’ would have been a much better response and wouldn’t have made you feel so guilty. I know from our own Health Authority that people do abuse this system but each person is individual and my daughter certainly has never done this. You had a clear problem with yours so it shouldn’t have been questioned at all. She hasn’t had any problems at all in getting new moulds, batteries etc so far and I hope she never will. Don’t feel guilty any more Danielle your only getting what your entitled to. My daughter also went to University and got an English degree and she’d panic if neither of her aids were working because she would miss vital information to do her work. Thank you for bringing this to peoples attention and I wish you good luck with your Social Work and everything else you want to do in life.

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  9. As a NHS audiologist and a private hearing aid dispenser I think it is awful that this patient was made to feel the way she did but I do think that ALL patients should be aware of the cost of the devices provided whether this be ear moulds, hearing aids or even batteries. This would help patients understand why services run the way they do. Sadly, with the advent of initiatives like Any Qualified Provider that pay departments a set tariff for a three year patient pathway (currently for patients over 55 years of age) we all have to be more careful about how the money is spent. For those that do have the option to go private, Katy is right, the Hearing Aid Dispenser will have more time to spend with you and more options in terms of hearing aids, ear moulds, accessories and rehabilitation but the price you pay will be significantly higher (probably around three to four times higher) than the NHS pay us to deliver our three year patient pathway.

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  10. As an audiologist myself, it’s really sad to read something like this Danielle. I think you’ve shown tremendous courage to speak out like you have as it gives a wake up call to all of us, even if we are not practicing badly on the importance of how we come across to the patient in what we say and how we phrase things. As well as all that, the practice is poor as if your mould is causing you discomfort, it needs to be changed, they’re your ears after all!
    As others have said, this is one isolated incident and I hope your future experiences with us are better!

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  11. Hi Daniele, I really think a letter to the hospital concerned would be a good way of taking this foward and maybe a copy to your local MP? Without feedback authorities cannot take action, and some obviously needs to be taken. Good Luck!

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  12. I can empathise! I’ve had several experiences like this at my local hearing aid department and they left me feeling demoralised and disgusted. Some audiologists are not deaf aware (how ironic) – there seems to be no training given in how to communicate with deaf people. It’s not difficult, just common sense tactics really.

    I would have stood up to the audiologist though, but that kind of thing gets easier as you get older. I never stood up to anyone when I was younger. Now I do, I’m firm and polite, and it does help – even just a firm “Don’t talk to me like that” will make people stop and think. Some people just have no communication skills….

    I’ve delivered deaf awareness training to student audiologists and some of them didn’t really take it on board. I’ve had a deaf trainee audiologist on one of my courses and she was fabulous, she was spot on with the communication tactics …. we need more deaf people to enter into this kind of career as they really “get it”.

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