creating a new social norm for hearing care
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The current dichotomy of NHS vs non-NHS fosters a spirit of protectionism amongst the the two camps of providers, with both the public and private sectors trumpeting the other's shortcomings.

Providers of non-NHS funded hearing care fit around 17-20% of all hearing aids in the UK. They are often compared both favourably and unfavourably with NHS provision, depending on one's perspective, which has an effect on general attitudes to hearing care.

In this article we examine those concerns in relation to their impact on attitudes.

This article explains in detail the individual factors that make up the provider's proposition, including:

  • Technology
  • Physical properties
  • Waiting time for treatment
  • Reputation of the provider
  • Convenience
  • Ongoing support
  • Personal choice
  • Personal beliefs

It also explains which factors play the most significant role (i.e. core reasons) in an individual decision and why.

Advances brought about by the introduction of digital technology as recently as the mid 1990s has allowed hearing aid manufacturers to begin systematically addressing outstanding issues in the effectiveness of hearing aids (see A Model for Understanding the Effect of Treatment on Attitudes).

Hearing care is a relatively recent profession which only became possible with the invention of the hearing aid. Hearing aids (discounting accouterments such as “ear trumpets”) could not exist before electricity, and even then it took Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone to provide the basis for the technology used.

Out of the five key drivers of attitudes to hearing care, two drivers can be identified as primary drivers:

  • Our current knowledge about hearing.
  • Our current ability to treat reduced hearing.

This article provides an overview of the five drivers of attitudes to hearing care and how they relate to individuals and society. It is recommended that you read this article to familiarise yourself with the drivers before proceeding further.

The three main aims of Audira are:

  • To ensure that hearing care is open – which means easily accessible and transparent.
  • To ensure that choice is real.
  • To ensure that hearing care is effective.

Hearing Care that is Open

In order for hearing care to be open it needs to be:

  • Easily understood by service users. What does someone do in order to access hearing care services? Is there a clearly defined path or are they likely to get confused along the way?
  • Readily available to service users. Can they access services near to them? Are there barriers to them receiving the hearing care they require?
  • Transparent. Can a service user understand what's involved and what they need? Are there any alternative routes, services or products that would not be immediately obvious to a service user?
  • Open. Do hearing care providers have a level playing field in bringing hearing care to service users? Does the system of provision foster protectionism or an unfair advantage to one provider over another?
  • Openness. Does the profession provide ways to bring together the best minds and skills for an individual service user? Does the profession provide ways to bring together the best minds and skills for the future development of hearing care?

Choice that is Real

There are many things, apparent or otherwise, that hinder choice in hearing care. Audira aims to identify these and present a pragmatic and holistic approach to addressing the issues. Where necessary, it will draw the distinction between "pseudo choice" - where the illusion of choice is given to a service user - and "real choice" where the choice really does rest with the service user.

Examples of hindrances to choice include:

  • Attitudes of Society. Are potential service users put off seeking the treatment they need because of what society might think?
  • Availability of Provider. Are service users able to freely choose their provider or are they discouraged from doing so in some way?
  • Availability of Resources. To what extent does availability of resources, either of the service user or the provider, limit choice.
  • Public Awareness. Are service users aware of the choice that's available to them?
  • Universality of Provision. How universal in hearing care? Is it limited to a particular demographic or particular service?
  • Scope of Service. Should hearing care be preventative or simply remedial?

To answer some of these questions it will be necessary to explore issues that are often are taken "as read".

For example, what is hearing care? Where do attitudes come from? What should be provided by the state? Does language affect choice?

Hearing Care That is Effective

Audira continuously asks the questions:

  • What are we currently doing that is hindering hearing care being effective.
  • What should we be doing to make hearing care more effective.

Audira is most interested in looking at "systems" and their effect on attitudes and accessibility.

By participating in the Audira » Think Tank for Hearing you are agreeing to abide by these Guidelines for Participation to ensure Audira's open and transparent spirit, and that all discussions and contributions are carried out in a non-partisan, non-confrontational way.

Be Considerate

We are working together to realise a future that we may have to live with. So always consider the impact your words and actions will have on others, both in the present and in the future.

Be Respectful

Participants bring with them their own unique perspective and experiences. Sometimes you may not agree with someone. Sometimes you may even get frustrated when someone won't see your point of view. But never let this get the better of you; remember to respect them and demonstrate this with good manners and good behaviour. Audiramust remain an environment where everyone feels comfortable participating without feeling threatened or demeaned. Remember, our words are on display to the world.

Be Collaborative

The underlying principles of Audira is openness and transparency. There is no place within Audira for hidden agendas, ulterior motives or selfish ambition. We must be prepared to work together towards the greater objective, even if we find ourselves collaborating with people we might normally seek to avoid in other circumstances; it is the ideas that are important, not the personalities behind them. Working together means allowing others to modify our ideas, or finding the good in the ideas of others and improving on them.

Be Objective

Most people are protective of their own ideas, philosophies and perspectives. Sometimes this means that we cannot see the value in another's ideas, particularly if it doesn't fit in with our own. Participation means being prepared to step back and see it from each other's points of view. Before disagreeing with something, work out where your own motives are coming from and ask how valid they are.

Be Constructive

If you do disagree with someone, or believe they have missed the point, first look for the common ground. If you do need to disagree, you must be able to explain clearly why you disagree and offer an alternative.

Be Relevant

Finally, remember what Audira is about. Ask yourself whether your contribution is "on topic" and whether it is in keeping with the Aims of Audira.

We look forward to working alongside you!

Hearing Care is bigger than any one individual or an organisation. We each bring our own unique perspectives and set of experiences, and collaboration enables us to see the bigger picture.

Why participate in Audira?

Because together we can work towards the common objective of creating a new social norm for hearing care.

Our common goal is to create a new social norm where the majority of people respect their hearing and do what they can to keep their hearing working at its optimum throughout life, mindful of the role their hearing plays in their own lives and in society, and confident that society will support them should a residual reduction in their hearing put them at a disadvantage.

Who should participate in Audira?

You should, if you have any interest – professional or otherwise – in hearing care, we invite you to participate – whether you are a hearing care professional, a service-user, a hearing care provider, a supplier or manufacturer, a consumer interest group, a policymaker or even just an interested observer.

The only qualification you need to participate in this online Think Tank is that you follow the Guidelines for Participation.

How to Participate in Audira

1. Get informed

  • Read the content on the website and familiarise yourself with the issues and any proposals and opinions as they currently stand.

2. Get involved

  • Read the "For Discussion" at the bottom of each page.
  • Leave a comment to let people know whether you support the page's content or if you opinion differs. If it does differ, explain why and what your alternative would be.
  • Take the "Quick Poll" on any page it occurs.

3. Get contributing

  • See something in hearing care that you feel needs to change?
  • Glimpsed the future and think you know how to get there?
  • Share your ideas by contributing an article or proposal yourself for others to discuss.

To participate, you'll need to register…

A central principle of Audira is transparency, so you'll need to register and log in if you wish to leave a comment or contribute an article.

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