Preparing for your Coronavirus vaccination when you have hearing loss

Millions of people across the UK are rolling up their sleeves to receive one of the Coronavirus vaccines.

If you are preparing to receive a vaccine for the first time or for your follow-up dose, you may be heading to your local hospital, GP surgery or one of the many mass vaccination sites set up across the country.

We understand that most people will feel anxious about attending this appointment, due to the fast-paced nature of the process. However, when you are deaf or have hearing loss there are also other barriers that need to be considered.

Staff on site – vaccinators and usually a team of volunteer support staff – will be wearing PPE and face masks as a safety precaution. This may make it more difficult if you rely on lipreading to hear and understand what is being said about the process.

To help you, we have prepared some useful tips and created a printable resource to reassure you and help your vaccination appointment go a little more smoothly.

Preparing for the appointment

There are some steps you can take prior to attending your appointment:

  • Contact your GP/health board in advance: If you have specific needs e.g. you require a BSL interpreter or have mobility problems, contact your GP surgery or organising health board/trust to find out what support can be made available to you.
  • Double check how to get there / take a buddy: Make sure you know how to get to your appointment, or ensure you have friend or family member to go with you to help with communication.
  • Prepare a notepad or Boogie Board: Have ready a notepad and pen to take with you in case you need the practitioner to write down any important information. Another alternative is a Boogie Board e-Writer which can be used to help with communication day-today after your appointment has finished.
  • Download a speech to text app: – If you have a smartphone, make sure you download a speech-to-text app such as Live Transcribe or Ava. These could help to translate what is being said during your appointment. For more details about other apps, visit our useful apps page.
  • Download our printable communication card: We have created a downloadable card which you can take along to your appointment. Simply print it off, tick the box(es) that apply to you and be ready to show to the volunteer on site and the vaccinator.

During the appointment

  1. Be open – Before you start your appointment, let the event volunteer staff know that you have hearing loss or you lipread and show them your downloadable communication card. These volunteers are on hand to support patients throughout the process and will adapt and assist where possible.
  2. Keep calm – If you become anxious or flustered you might find it harder to follow what is being said
  3. Don’t worry: If you have missed what has been said, stay calm so that you can hear the rest of the information. Ask the volunteer support staff or vaccinator to slow down and rephrase what they have said, or to write it down
  4. Ask for help: If you are feeling overwhelmed because communication is breaking down, do not be afraid to ask one of the volunteers or staff on site if you can have five minutes to take a breather and compose yourself. They be able to take you to a quiet or safe area to reassure you.

For general tips on how to communication if you are deaf or have hearing loss, or with someone who has hearing difficulties read our Communication Tips booklet [pdf].

Living with sensory impairment during the COVID-19 crisis

Navigating the current COVID-19 crisis can be confusing and stressful for everyone, and people with a sensory impairment may find it difficult to find information and support.

We have compiled a list of resources that we hope will be useful in these unprecedented times.

Deaf people and people with hearing loss

The City of Edinburgh Council have a COVID-19 update in BSL on their main COVID-19 information page. They have also developed a range of BSL videos including Council service updates, financial support, and support for people at risk of harm or who are shielding.

Deaf Action information page. Includes information in British Sign Language (BSL) from the Scottish Government, UK Government and Deaf Action service updates.

NHS Inform has a (BSL) video showing steps you can take to help avoid infection from coronavirus (COVID-19) and advice on self-isolation.

There is currently a special COVID-19 service in operation at the NHS Lothian Edinburgh Audiology Clinic. Visit the City of Edinburgh Council website for more information.

The Scottish Government have made a short video to help explain why some people are not wearing a face covering. Watch the video on Twitter.

People with sight loss

RNIB are currently providing rehabilitation/mobility services, and social work services by phone and visiting on an emergency basis. You can contact them by calling  0131 652 3140 Monday to Friday 9am – 12pm.

RNIB Helpline. You can call 0303 123 9999 or email helpline@rnib.org.uk. The helpline is open 8am-8pm on weekdays, and 9am-5pm at weekends.

Covid-19: Five ways RNIB services can help. A helpful summary of the ways that RNIB can help you during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How to prepare for your eye clinic appointment during COVID-19. A useful guide from RNIB.

Covid-19 information in audio format. Listen to the latest coronavirus guidance from NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government, including social distancing and stay at home advice.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for those providing guide support. Advice for those who provide guide support for people with sight loss or mobility or other impairments.

Deafblind people

Deafblind Scotland is offering one to one support and regular accessible briefings about Coronavirus. You can e-mail wr@dbscotland.org.uk for further information.

If you need more general help and information about COVID-19, visit this page.

Supporting someone with a sensory impairment

We have compiled some information and advice below to help support someone with a sensory impairment during the pandemic

National Guidelines

NHS 24 and the Scottish Government have produced guidance for Health and Social Care staff to help them communicate with people with sensory impairment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This document was written by a coalition of organisations working with people with sensory impairments.

Download the guidance.

Watch the filmed version. This includes a BSL translation and subtitles.

Booking a British Sign Language interpreter

NHS Lothian staff can book a BSL interpreter through the NHS Lothian intranet or by phoning 0131 536 2020 and choosing option five. You can also email enquiries to staffbank.its@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk

City of Edinburgh Council staff can book a BSL interpreter by e-mailing the Interpretation and Translation Service – its@edinburgh.gov.uk. The service is currently unable to take any bookings over the phone.

Personal listeners

Personal listeners are great for improving communication with people with hearing loss, particularly people who rely on lipreading and can’t due to staff use of masks. All Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership staff, and staff working in NHS Lothian acute sites in Edinburgh can borrow a personal listener from NHS Lothian Audiology by e-mailing audiology@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk and marking the email for the attention of Denise Rennex, or calling 0131 536 1637.

Hearing aid batteries

You can contact NHS Lothian Audiology if you urgently need new batteries for an inpatient’s hearing aids by e-mailing audiology@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk or calling 0131 536 1637.

Video resources

Ideas for Ears have created a video that provides essential information about the problems that arise on phone and video calls and how to fix them. There is also a handy summary sheet to use alongside the video.

For information and advice for members of the public with sensory impairment, including service updates, visit this pag