Introducing the Hear Ear Safety Clip
My Little Ears has been approached this week by Hear Ear Audiology Limited, a company that manufactures the Hear Ear safety clip, suitable for hearing aids and cochlear implants. The Hear Ear is largely aimed at adults and the elderly but is also suitable for children. At My Little Ears, our focus usually on children and infants with hearing loss, but we mustn’t forget that big ears can be just as important. Here is Barbara Lawrence’s story about how Hear Ear got started and why hearing aid safety clips can be invaluable both day to day for adults and elderly people struggling with deafness…
‘My mum is 90 years of age and has dementia. She has lived in a care home since 2010 as she was continually falling down resulting in numerous hospital stays. She is totally deaf in her right ear following an operation she had when in her 30’s and has age related hearing impairment in her left ear.
Due to dementia she was continually losing her hearing aid and not remembering where she had put it. She lost two in the care home and a further two whilst in hospital. As I was required to take her to the audiology department for a replacement on each occasion, which was quite traumatic for her as she has limited mobility and uses a wheelchair, I decided to make a securing clip to secure the hearing aid. This was intended to keep the hearing aid on her person without it falling to the ground even if she did remove it herself.
This proved to be a success and when in 2014 she was admitted to hospital following a femur fracture the staff asked where she had got the securing clip from because they were forever searching for lost hearing aids in the bedding which was taking up valuable nursing time and they could do with them on the wards. They suggested that I develop it and bring it to market.
This started me on the quest for information as to how many hearing aids are lost during hospital stays. The audiology department gave me the figures for replacements in 2013 which was astounding as I also discovered the cost of each hearing aid from the CCG Finance Department. The basic cost of the hearing aid and fitting amounted to £83+ which when extrapolated across all 211 CCGs was a staggering amount running into the £millions.
I felt as a user of the NHS I could suggest a way of reducing the financial burden for replacement hearing aids by bringing Hear Ear to procurement to enable funds to be made available for other health issues.
During 2014 I searched for a manufacturer in China who could make the securing clip to a high standard using quality materials and I also registered for IPO Trade Mark and Registered Design. I continued my research with Action On Hearing Loss and the Alzheimers Society to support my application to the NHS Supply Chain and I attended events run by the North West Coast Health, Academia, Science Network which is a group of 15 networks supported by NHS England. I was introduced to a number of professionals who could advise me on how to bring my innovation to the NHS.
The increase in replacement hearing aids rose by 32% during 2014 which is what spurred me on to save the NHS valuable funds.
Using this information and when I had met the criteria required I submitted my application to the NHS Supply Chain at the end of August 2015 and Hear Ear Safety Clip has now been approved for distribution to NHS suppliers.
Unfortunately, at the end of August my mum had another fall, this time fracturing her pelvis and was once again admitted to hospital where she stayed for 6 weeks. During this time I took in her hearing aid together with her Hear Ear which was much appreciated by the staff. It enabled all staff to be aware of her hearing impairment because of the high visibility of the clip and ribbon and they communicated and interacted with her accordingly by approaching her on her good side and they spoke more clearly. She appreciated this because previously, as she did not hear well when the hearing aid was lost, she was getting tea with sugar and not receiving pain medication when it was needed. Her lack of response was attributed to the fact that she had dementia but she hadn’t heard the questions and was unable to respond positively. On this recent occasion she communicated well and was able to follow instructions from the physio and other nursing staff which enabled her to be discharged from hospital. The Matron of Dementia Services approached me asking how they could have Hear Ear on the wards for all patients with hearing impairment because the clip alone highlighted the disability.
Why the Hear Ear Safety Clip is so important
Experience with my mum has shown that the loss of a hearing aid has a significant impact on her well-being. If she is able to communicate and contribute in the care package and pathway for her, her quality of life can be maintained.
Many care home and nursing staff do not have the time to be looking for lost hearing aids as it takes them away from care duties for other patients. According to Alzheimer’s Research the loss of hearing is known to progress dementia and cause depression through isolation and social exclusion.
As we have a growing elderly population many will develop a hearing impairment. If their hearing has been improved by wearing a hearing aid then the security of the device should be paramount in maintaining their communication and interaction skills. It enables them to continue to pursue the activities they enjoy without fear of loss of the hearing aid. Many hearing aids are lost when gardening, walking and cycling.’