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Listen Up!

Each year we monitor children’s audiology services so we know what support is available and how it’s changing across England. 

What's happening in children's audiology services?

In 2021 we repeated our annual survey of children’s audiology services in England. It follows similar surveys carried out in 2018 and 2019 (with a break in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak). 

We found that many services were meeting, or exceeding, good practice – this was certainly something to celebrate. However, there were also some areas where there was a need for improvement.

Some positive findings from the survey:

  • When children were referred to audiology following the newborn hearing screen, they were almost always given an appointment within the expected waiting time – most services met the waiting time target of 28 days, or less.
  • More children received replacement ear moulds on time. Good practice is for this to happen within five days. Only 18% of services missed this target – down from 22% in 2019.
  • Nearly all services provided hearing aid batteries free of charge, as well as coloured ear moulds.
  • The number of services that reported more than 10% of children not being brought to appointments improved (63% – down from 75% in 2019). So fewer children missed vital audiology appointments.
  • More than three quarters of services (82%) told us that there was at least one parent of a deaf child represented at their Children’s Hearing Support Working Group (CHSWG).
  • Most services continued to support children with all types of hearing loss – 92% of services offered hearing aids to children with any type of hearing loss.

However, there were some areas that need improvement:

It’s important to highlight that these results are from a time when covid-19 was still having a significant impact on the NHS. Paediatric audiology services were working hard to maintain and deliver services to children during a very challenging time – and we are grateful for the work of all audiologists and other health professionals.

  • For those children who were referred to audiology, not from the newborn hearing screen, waiting times increased. 35% of services missed this target for referrals – up from 13% in 2019. The average waiting time was almost 52 days, higher than the NHS waiting time target of 42 days.
  • Many deaf children were still waiting too long for hearing aid repairs. Good practice is for repairs to happen within one day. 68% of services missed this target in 2021 – compared to 64% of services in 2019.
  • Most trusts missed their waiting time target for grommet surgery (51% – up from 23% in 2019). In some areas, children faced a wait of more than a year. But, we recognise that during the pandemic, non-urgent ENT surgery was paused, and this doesn't reflect on audiology services themselves.
  • Too many deaf children were not being seen often enough by their audiology service – more than three quarters of services told us that deaf children were waiting longer than is clinically appropriate for a follow-up appointment.
  • Almost half of services lost permanent staff members since 2019 – services reported that they were finding it difficult to recruit experienced staff.

Read the report...

You can read the full report from our 2021 survey below:

Other evidence

Due to the coronavirus pandemic we did not request information from services in 2020.

In 2019 and 2018 we carried out our annual surveys of paediatric audiology services in England, using Freedom of Information requests. You can read the findings of these surveys here:

In 2014 we gathered evidence from parents of deaf children about the quality of audiology services.

  • Download Listen Up!: A report campaigning for higher quality audiology services for deaf children.