asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when high power hearing aids to replace current National Health Service hearing aids were first introduced; how many have been supplied in each of the last five years; and what has been the cost.
It is not clear exactly which aids the hon. Member has in mind. Since 1974 only one new high power hearing aid (Code No. BW61) has been introduced to the NHS standard range as part of an updating programme to replace three hearing aids that had become obsolete.This aid was introduced under a phased programme commencing in August 1978 and the numbers issued to patients in England and Wales in 1978 and 1979 were as follows:We will shortly be introducing a new BE30 series of higher power behind-the-ear hearing aid for issue to patients of all ages. Two models in this series should be available at the end of this year.We are also planning to introduce a further series (Code No. BE50) of a very high power behind-the-ear hearing aid in the middle of 1981. This will also be available for issue to patients of all ages.Since April 1974, very high power behind-the-ear commercial hearing aids have been available under the NHS for children and young people under 18 (or under 21 if in full-time education) but, once they were over that age, when a replacement was needed they had to revert to one of the standard range of NHS aids or to resort to purchasing an aid privately. From 1 July 1980, as an interim measure until the new very high power behind-the-ear aid mentioned above is available, these young people will be able to have a replacement commercial aid even when they have reached the age limit which previously applied. This aid is also being made available on the same interim basis to all adults with a very severe hearing loss who have an exceptional medical need.