BSHAA has welcomed the NHS England Action Plan on Hearing Loss published on March 23rd which proposes to promote prevention and improve commissioning and integration of hearing care services,reduce stigma, improve communication in public services and public spaces, and encourage more research.
The plan included contributions from the Society and seeks to “improve the hearing health of all communities, improve equalities and reduce inequalities through prevention of hearing loss; to ensure that diverse communities are aware of the importance of good hearing and communication; and that effective and up to date communication support is provided promptly for those living with hearing loss to ensure they realise their aspirations.”
BSHAA has welcomed the document, not least its acceptance that the less well off are more affected by hearing loss and that it is a major reason for poorer and less frequent social interaction, is often a contributor to depression and is independently associated with dementia.
“We have long argued that early intervention is vital if those with unmanaged hearing loss and either dementia or mental health problems are not to go straight to a higher cost intervention, such as a care home, than would be the case if their hearing loss were effectively managed,” says President Peter Sydserff.
He goes on: “This point is clearly accepted in the report as is the need for less variable and timely access to diagnostic and audiology services and opportunities for early testing both in primary and secondary care and further consideration of screening for hearing loss at around 65 years of age.”
Meanwhile Professor David Welbourn, BSHAA’s new Chief Executive has expressed the hope that the report’s focus on the importance of prevention and early intervention might trigger concerted action to tackle the stigma associated with hearing loss, so that people will seek help without waiting 10 years as they do at the moment.
Read the full document here: NHS England Action Plan on Hearing Loss 2015
Read the full BSHAA Press Statement on the NHS Action Plan
You can also read the Action On Hearing Loss Report: Under Pressure published Jan 2015
Also read the Monitor Report on NHS Adult Hearing Services March 2015
The British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists has criticised the short term decision of North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to withdraw funding for thousands of patients suffering from hearing loss in the area who could benefit from hearing aids.
The Society which represents audiologists who provide both NHS and independent hearing care says the decision means patients with mild hearing loss will go untreated whilst those with moderate hearing loss will have to jump through ridiculous hoops to obtain hearing help.
The Society’s President, Peter Sydserff said: “To deny those suffering from mild hearing loss is a mistake on a number of levels. As audiologists we know the benefit of early intervention and the CCG is effectively denying the one in ten of the local population who could benefit. A lot of the barriers to using hearing aids in the past are simply no longer there – they are sophisticated, perform well and are discrete. In addition; there is much research to support the benefits of using hearing aids which the CCG has chosen to ignore in favour of their own, unsupported, position.”
Meanwhile, Monitor, the government body charged with ‘making the health sector work for patients’ has produced a report praising the value of NHS hearing care and especially the additional benefit of hearing care provision delivered in the Communicty rather than hospitals.
David Welbourn, BSHAA’s incoming Chief Executive said; “We know that loss of hearing is one of the drivers of isolationism –a highly significant factor in worsening of many of the long term conditions at the heart of escalating costs to the NHS.
“We very much welcome the new Monitor guidance responding to this important agenda. Their report, based on a thorough review of evidence, shows that there is real benefit to be gained. Early access to hearing aids can enable people to continue to participate actively in their communities. The report recognizes that providing access to hearing aids is not only good value for money but brings greater benefit when people are offered choice. This considered review of evidence is in stark contrast to the decision-making in North Staffordshire, where a GP reportedly justified their decision stating that ‘as many as 40% of hearing aids issued on the NHS are not used’.
Surely a compassionate and responsive CCG concerned about wellbeing should be tackling the reasons for poor use. Instead they have chosen to penalise the majority without giving them the choice that Monitor recommends. What next? No more prescriptions because some courses of medication are not completed?”
A new survey has been launched to help set future research priorities for mild-to-moderate hearing loss which affects 10 million people in the UK alone.
This figure is set to rise to 14.5 million by 2031. Hearing loss is a long-term condition that affects communication and can lead to social isolation, depression and poor quality of life. In addition, there is an association between hearing loss and an increased risk of developing dementia. Although some forms of hearing loss can be congenital, the majority of cases arise through age-related hearing decline. Mild and moderate losses account for around 90% of all cases.
Mild-moderate hearing loss can have a major impact on communication and quality of life for both the person with hearing loss and for those with whom they communicate. Nevertheless, many individuals often delay seeking help for their hearing difficulties for an average of 10 years. As such, hearing loss continues to be an area for which there is poor uptake of available interventions and little systematic data for treatment outcomes.
With funding from the Nottingham Hospitals Charity, the Mild-Moderate Hearing Loss Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) was established to identify the priorities for both patients and clinicians.BSHAA is one of the 13 members of the steering group which has guided the project. A particular challenge for the partnership is how to reach and harvest questions from individuals who experience hearing difficulties or changes in their hearing abilities, but who have not yet received a diagnosis of Mild-Moderate hearing loss. We feel that by keeping the survey as open as possible, we can obtain unanswered questions from individuals whose voices may not yet have had the opportunity to be heard.