We are a network of d/Deaf and hard of hearing health professionals who share information and support. As the site develops, it will include more practical information about strategies and equipment to enable us to work in healthcare and discussion of issues such as training and employment. This will also be relevant for our trainers, supervisors and employers, occupational health staff, audiologists, hearing therapists, ENT staff and other related professions. And you can contact me for advice and information.
Anything ordered from overseas is checked at customs. If it costs over a specified threshold, you will usually need to pay duty and VAT. At the time of writing, VAT applies to goods over £15 or £36 for gifts. And duty to goods over £135. There are some exceptions. If tax and duty are chargeable, the courier or Royal Mail or Parcel Force have to pay tax and duty and claim it back from you. So Royal Mail, Parcel Force or the courier will contact you. You will need to pay them these charges and an administration fee before they deliver the item. I’ve asked HMRC if there’s a way we can pay duty and VAT up-front so there isn’t a hold-up. Apparently not.
If your low-frequency hearing is OK, you’ll be able to hear fine with a standard stethoscope. The problem comes if you have hearing aids: it’s not always convenient to take them right out every time you need the stethoscope. But if you have behind-the-ear aids with conventional earmoulds, you can flip the moulds out quickly, leaving the aids hooked over your ears.
Admitedly, they do sometimes make a bid for freedom, especially if you have spectacles competing for over-ear space. So at the start of your working day, try toupee tape or little stickies to stick the aids to your head or ear.
“Do you have a key tip for other d/Deaf and hard of hearing health professionals?” A question I’m asked from time to time and able to answer without a moment’s thought. Because there’s one thing that I’ve found consistently makes a difference to smooth communication with my patients and colleagues. And everyone else, come to think of it! It is,
“Be up-front about your hearing …”
…about your hearing, hearing loss, hearing impairment, deafness, duff ears … whatever term you prefer. Be up-front about it. Tell people early on in the encounter.
I’m very grateful to have been invited to speak at a meeting of the London Consortium of Occupational Health Practitioners last week. This is a group of OH practitioners most of whom work in the NHS. So I was delighted to be able to talk about some of the challenges, strategies and technology we d/Deaf and hard of hearing health professionals and students come across. Perfect timing too as it coincided with Deaf Awareness Week. As ever, my difficulty was in deciding what to leave out but I do hope I gave an overview and links to resources to find out more.
I’ve known for a long time that if you’re buying equipment in the UK, that is for your sole use and needed due to a disability, you don’t have to pay VAT. Some suppliers of deafness-related equipment have a simple declaration readily available so VAT is deducted before you pay anything. (eg Connevans’ VAT information, Action On Hearing Loss shop information.)
I’ve just learned* there’s a similar set-up if you’re buying equipment overseas. Usually there’s duty to pay either via the carrier, or at customs if you’re bringing something in yourself. Someone in our email group has just passed on the news that you can make a similar declaration and won’t have to pay duty.
To qualify for exemption, HMRC states equipment must be “specially designed to give educational, employment or social help to people with physical or mental disabilities” (see HMRC ref below.) Their reply to my equiry states, “unfortunately, the VAT relief only covers equipment that is designed solely for the use by disabled people” which excludes most if not all electronic stethoscopes, “and also is to be used for your own private and domestic use – so this wouldn’t cover equipment that you use for work.” Which definitely excludes all stethoscopes as well as much other equipment. If in doubt about a specific situation, I suggest checking with HMRC.
Richard Webb-Stevens is a motorcycle paramedic. Deaf since childhood, he’s persevered through knock-backs and come up with solutions to barriers. He actively promotes deaf awareness and access to emergency services and health care and is an advocate for access to healthcare for deaf/HoH people.
Richard began work with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) over sixteen years ago and has been a motorcycle paramedic for eight. He will shortly be starting a secondment with London’s Air Ambulance as a Flight Paramedic which is his career ambition. I first heard about Richard on the BBC See Hear programme featuring d/Deaf and HoH health professionals in January 2015.
Excellent article in the Huffington Post by Eugene Smith about Justine Durno, a medical student at Barts and the London, who is also deaf. It covers a lot of ground touching on issues deaf people face trying to access health care, issues facing deaf children and in education and some of the added value that being deaf will bring to her patients and others. If you saw her on See Hear in January, you’ll already know Justine is a very positive young lady. A real asset to the medical profession.
At last there’s an update on the FaceView Mask that Jeanne Hahne has been trying to develop for so long. She came up with the idea in 1979, while working in a burn unit, because she was unable to connect with her trauma patients through her protective mask. Communication is enhanced when patients can see more of our faces, can see us smile or share their sadness. And of course lipreading helps deaf patients and deaf healthcare staff.
Jeanne will need FDA approval and has turned to crowd sourcing to fund the final development and testing stages, aiming to have a surgical version ready in May 2015.
Read more here .
Meanwhile, don’t forget the safe DIY option I wrote about here.
For as long as I’ve been around deaf health professionals, clear face masks have been stuck “in development” (see below.) In the meantime, how about adapting equipment already readily available? In a message to the NOISE mailing list in 2005, Ian Thomson, Vascular Surgeon and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago, wrote:
“We have been using clear masks which are designed for cleaning instruments in a theatre environment. With the addition of a standard surgical mask taped below the clear mask we have passed tests for contamination by theatre control. We have used this design for all nurses that scrub with me for the last two years and some hundreds of cases in two different hospitals with no change in wound infection rates.”