Digital hearing aids will be made publicly available in England by April 2005.
According to the Department of Health, 1.8 million people, including 18,000 children will benefit from the new technology through the government funded National Health Services, NHS.
Funding of GBP 94 million has been set aside for the programme. The modernization programme is being managed by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, RNID.
RNID has been the driving force behind the campaign to get the new technology introduced. In 2000, digital hearing aids were made available through pilot programmes in some parts of England. The plan included coverage in one third of England by April 2003.
There are an estimated 8.7 million deaf and hearing impaired people in the United Kingdom. The vast majority of hearing aids are dispensed through the NHS, but until the new programme was introduced, digital hearing aid technology was available only on a private basis.
John Low, chief executive of the RNID, welcomed the final breakthrough for the English programme as "brilliant news". "At last," he said, "there will be a world-class NHS hearing aid service throughout England. Research shows that digital hearing aids offer patients a 40 percent improvement in hearing and quality of life."
Sources: www.health-news.co.uk and press reports
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