New £2.1m NHS hearing service opens in Leeds

A new base has opened for the city’s Hearing and Balance Service - a health service which makes “a world of difference” according to former patients.

By Joanna Wardill
Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 1:05 pm
Julian Hartley the Chief Executive for Leeds Teaching Hospitals at the new Hearing and Balance Service at Seacroft Hospital which he officially opened. Picture: Gary Longbottom

As work continues to build two new state-of-the-art hospitals on the Leeds General Infirmary site, a new home had to be found for some of the services provided by the Hearing and Balance Service.

Health chiefs at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust made the decision to move these services to Seacroft Hospital and yesterday marked the official opening of the new £2.1m unit.

Attending the event was Poppy Whittaker, three, who has been under the care of the clinic since she was just a few weeks old, when she was diagnosed with severe hearing loss after failing her newborn hearing tests.

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Young Patient Poppy Whittaker, three, of Leeds with her mum Katie at the new Hearing and Balance Service at Seacroft Hospital being examined by Jennifer Pyne, Paediatric Audiologist. Picture: Gary Longbottom

The service later diagnosed her as having Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome and she was fitted with hearing aids at eight weeks old.

Mum Katie, of Leeds, said: “Without her hearing aids she wouldn’t have access to any sound.”

She said it was a “shock” to be told her daughter had such severe hearing loss but the service has helped the family find out about all the options and information available to them.

“The centre has been amazing. When we go back it’s like being around family. It’s lovely to see them.”

Katie said Poppy loves to speak but she is learning sign-supported English so they can follow her lead on how she chooses to communicate in the future.

“Learning to sign, and having as much access to different types of communications, as a deaf child is so important.”

Also attending the event was Eric Songhurst 83, a retired teacher from Halton, who has been a patient at the clinic for 16 years after his hearing deteriorated.

In 2008, he had surgery to fit a bone-anchored hearing aid which he said completely changed his life.

“Without this service I would be living in my own world. It had got to the stage where my hearing was so poor that I couldn’t follow TV programmes.

“I could speak one-to-one with somebody but I couldn’t manage to join the conversation when in a group. If there was any ancillary noise around I hadn’t a chance of listening to what people were saying.

“It got pretty desperate, it really was. I was avoiding situations where I had to join in conversations.”

Eric says he is now on his fourth or fifth model of bone-anchored hearing device, as technology improves, and he praised the care he has received from the service.

“The level of care I have had is particularly good. If I have ever needed something urgently, the time has been found.

“Because of the type of hearing aid I have, they have dedicated staff who deal with this so I’ve seen pretty much the same person all the way through and we’ve developed a good relationship.”

Eric is now a voluntary registered speaker for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and is currently president of the Yorkshire Retired Members’ Association of the teaching union NASUWT - roles he says would have been impossible before his surgery.

Eric, who has been married to wife Marie for 51 years, said: “It has made a world of difference.”

Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust spoke at the official opening said the Trust examined a number of sites for the new Hearing and Balance Service before deciding on Seacroft Hospital.

"Following an engagement exercise with patients, and acting on clinical advice, we decided the Seacroft site offered the space needed for the services’ specialist audiology testing equipment,” he said. “It also offers on-site parking and access by bus and road, which had been flagged up as a concern for patients during the engagement process.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is investing around £2.1m in the new unit at Seacroft Hospital, and the new unit offers modern clinic areas with new audiology testing booths and provision for paediatric cases as well as adults.

“I’m very proud of everyone in the Hearing and Balance Service, and not just because of the seamless transition to their new home, but for all the great work they do, day in and out, for the people of Leeds,” said Mr Hartley.

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