§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate his Department has made of the number of(a) deaf and (b) hard of hearing people who have received funding for digital hearing aids under the access to work scheme; and what is the average cost of each digital hearing aid that has been purchased; 
(2) what cost-benefit evaluation his Department has made of the job retention benefits that would arise from (a) shorter waiting times for NHS hearing tests and the 542W fitting of hearing aids, (b) higher quality hearing aids and (c) a reduction in the number of people who would benefit from wearing a hearing aid who do not have one. 
§ Maria Eagle
[holding answer 16 November 2001]: The access to work programme provides practical advice and support to overcome work-related obstacles resulting from disability. Through access to work a grant can be provided towards any additional employment costs resulting from disability.
Access to work provides funding towards the purchase of digital hearing aids where there is a work-related need for them. The number of applications or expenditure in relation to any specific aid or piece of equipment is not monitored. It is therefore not possible to provide estimates of the numbers helped by, or the average cost to access to work of digital hearing aids.
The Department has not conducted a cost-benefit evaluation of job retention benefits in relation to the provision of hearing aids.