Adult hearing loss is causing major public health issue

Wednesday 16 March
Adult hearing loss is causing major public health issue

March 16 at 10:18

Leading UK hearing charities warn that if we are to enjoy a healthy old age, then hearing loss needs urgently to be addressed.

A new report by charities Action on Hearing Loss and The Ear Foundation entitled Adult Hearing Screening: Can we afford to wait any longer? reveals that older people who do not address their hearing loss are more likely to experience dementia, mental health issues, have more falls, suffer social isolation and early death. This is costing the NHS far more than it would if people tackled their hearing loss earlier with the help of a national screening programme.

The introduction of a national hearing screening programme would help adults to access the help they need earlier to manage their hearing loss well and reduce its impact.

As one adult hearing aid user interviewed said, “If I’d known then how life-changing deafness would be, I would have acted sooner.”

The direct costs to the health service in England of addressing hearing loss are currently estimated to be around £500 million annually but the costs of NOT providing hearing technology run to many billions of pounds. Without action the report warns that these indirect costs will increase as the UK’s population continues to age.

A survey of adults with hearing loss undertaken for the report also found that three quarters (76%) agreed that everyone should have their hearing checked as they get older. These and other findings in the report will be published this week and officially launched on Thursday 17 March at 4.30pm in The Robert Perks Room at Central Hall Westminster, London.

Typically people referred for hearing tests have had a hearing problem for 10 years or more, are aged in their mid 70s with a substantial hearing problem. Research shows that hearing aids make a profound difference and are regularly worn by 90% of users; the earlier people are fitted, the greater the cost effectiveness to the health service and benefit to the individual.

Sue Archbold, co-author of the report and Chief Executive of The Ear Foundation said, “We now have a National Action Plan on Hearing Loss for England (2015), which recognises the importance of early intervention to address the impact of hearing loss. But we still don’t have a strategy on hearing screening for older adults.”

After reviewing all the evidence the charities are calling on NHS England to implement a national strategy on screening for hearing loss in older adults.

Paul Breckell, Chief Executive at Action on Hearing Loss, said, “Providing a hearing test for everyone as they get older would help millions to stay connected to loved ones, and it would increase awareness of the health consequences of not addressing hearing loss. It would also encourage people to take action earlier and help to normalise both hearing loss and the wearing of aids, thereby addressing the stigma that some people feel is associated with hearing loss.”

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