Carers ‘failing to identify’ hearing loss in people with learning disabilities

Lynzee McShea, an audiologist from Sunderland University.
Lynzee McShea, an audiologist from Sunderland University.
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Caregivers are failing to identify hearing loss in people with learning disabilities, claim Wearside experts.

A pilot study conducted at the University of Sunderland found the carers are lacking the training to identify hearing loss in a person with special needs, which can significantly impact on quality of life.

We have powerful evidence of the difference hearing aids can make.

Lynzee McShea

Lynzee McShea works in the audiology department at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and as part of her research at the university she created an award-winning training programme, designed to empower carers to identify problems, and refer those they support to their GP.

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.

After 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 carers who took part in the pilot said they had more confidence about knowing there was help available if they suspected a problem, even for those with the most complex needs.

She said: “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.”