COVID-19 and Audiology
How will the Audiology service be structured?
During lockdown, we have been continuing our service remotely. This will still be the case for most appointments. We are working hard to make this as accessible as possible and will keep you updated as we progress. Initially most patients will be contacted via telephone or occasionally video calling. We are working on finding a robust video calling system so we can reach more people this way. We are also working on installing a remote assist program so we can make hearing aid adjustments without having to see you in person.
Battery collection and hearing aid accessory collection– please contact the department and we will post the required batteries or hearing aid accessories to you.
Hearing aid repairs– please package you hearing aids and post them to the Audiology department. We work on these daily and will endeavour to return your hearing aids as soon as possible.
Hearing aid fittings– you will usually receive an initial phone call to check you are happy and able to have a telephone fitting. Your hearing aids will be programmed and posted to you, and you will receive a follow-up call to take you through the fitting process. You will then receive a further call to check your progress.
Hearing tests and assessments– currently you will need to see a clinician face-to-face for a hearing test. This may be either at your home or at the clinic, depending on your circumstances. Our staff will have the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have been trained to wear it safely. We will also be contacting you prior to your appointment to explain how we will be minimising contact time in the department for you. However, if you still feel vulnerable, we are happy to see you once you are able to safely come out of shielding.
Attending for appointments
Please note: the majority of appointments will take place remotely. However, in rare cases; such as if you have a clinical need or are unsuitable for a remote appointment, you may be asked to attend the Audiology clinic in person.
Before the appointment
You will be asked to attend alone if possible, or with no more than one other person. You will be contacted by one of the Audiology Admin team to check whether you (or your companion) are experiencing any COVID symptoms.
Your arrival at the appointment
You will need to wear a face covering throughout the hospital. The Audiology department will remain locked, so please press the bell when you arrive and someone will escort you in. Please use hand gel on arrival to the department and again when you are leaving. We ask that you attend at the correct appointment time, so if you are early, please wait in your car or outside if possible until it is time for the appointment. Appointments will be staggered so there will be minimal people waiting in the waiting room.
During the appointment
We will aim to keep your time in the appointment room as short as possible, so you may have already been contacted by telephone to complete a history over the phone, or been given a questionnaire to complete. You may also be asked to wait in the waiting room at some points during the appointment. We ask that you adhere as much as possible to the 2 metre social distancing rule, and we will do so also. However, there are a few procedures in which the clinician will be in closer contact to you; for example, looking in your ear or measuring your hearing aid tubing. We will keep those contacts as short as possible.
Many of you will understandably be anxious, as this may be the first time you have left the house for a long time. You may also be anxious about whether you will be able to hear the staff you come into contact with when they are wearing face coverings. Please be reassured that our staff are highly trained in communication and are fully aware of the difficulties you could face. There is currently work being done on a face mask with a clear panel to aid lip reading, but this needs to be approved for use in hospitals before we can wear it.
In the meantime, we will take the extra time you need to help you understand what is being said in the appointment. We have a live voice-to-text app and there is also always good old pen and paper. We have plenty of written information for you to take away and links to instruction videos. We are also happy to provide you with a written summary of the key points from the appointment. Please do not be afraid to ask if you have not fully understood what has been said.
We assess, diagnose and treat hearing and balance problems in children and adults and provide information, support and counselling to people who use NHS hearing aids. We also fit and repair NHS digital hearing aids.
Most of our patients are referred to us from their GP or an ear, nose and throat consultant. If you or someone close to you has hearing or balance difficulties, book an appointment with your GP and they can then refer you to our service for further tests and support.
We are based at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton but we also run community clinics across Somerset including Bridgwater, Burnham on Sea, Chard, Glastonbury and Minehead. Our team includes audiologists and a hearing therapist and we are committed to providing high-quality, personalised care.
There is high demand for our service so you may have to wait some time for an appointment with us. You may need to wait up to six weeks for your first appointment after being referred by your GP. Waiting times for fittings, retunes, mould fits and other aftercare are at least 24 weeks. We are sorry for any inconvenience these delays cause and we will do all we can to see you as soon as possible.