Healthcare leaders call for action on hearing loss

A new ‘Action Plan on Hearing Loss’ to support services for deaf people and those with diminishing hearing has been produced by NHS England and the Department of Health.

The plan has been developed with a number of organisations including Public Health England, hearing loss charities and those whose hearing is directly affected.

Aimed at commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, GPs and healthcare providers, the report identifies multiple health and social issues associated with hearing loss.  It recommends ways that services for children, young people, working age and older adults living with hearing loss can be improved.

Hearing loss affects the development of language in children.  It reduces chances of employment in adults and also increases the risk of other health problems such as mental health.  Additionally, hearing loss and deafness reduces people’s ability to care for their own and their families’ long-term health conditions.

The report sets out five key objectives in in the following areas:

  1. Good prevention – for example reducing the numbers of young people and adults with noise induced hearing loss; including through immunisation and screening and utilising quality data to understand the social, financial and personal health advantages
  2. Earlier diagnosis – for example improving outcomes for babies with hearing loss, increasing identification of the number of children and adults in at risk groups
  3. Integrated services – for example reducing developmental and educational gaps due to childhood hearing loss and increasing the number of children, young people and adults with a personalised care plan
  4. Increased independence and ageing well – for example including access to technology including support by mobile or tele healthcare and improving access to wider health services from primary to end of life care
  5. Good learning outcomes – for example including improving employment opportunities for young people and adults and reducing development and attainment gaps between deaf and hearing children

The direct cost to the NHS of managing hearing loss is estimated to cost up to £450 million a year. Clinical Commissioning Groups will continue to decide what is commissioned locally to address local hearing needs

Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England, said: “This plan acknowledges and begins to address the growing problems of hearing loss which has significant economic, social and personal consequences including unemployment and feelings of isolation, exclusion and even depression.”

A hearing loss commissioning framework is also planned to ensure a more person centred and integrated approach and encourage best practice across hearing loss service commissioners.

Professor Sue Hill OBE, Chief Scientific Officer, said: “I was very pleased to lead the development of the Action Plan which represents a true partnership with all stakeholders and provides an excellent blueprint for bringing together a wide range of public organisations committed to improving services for children and adults with hearing loss. Hearing problems are a growing challenge with over 10 million people living with some form of hearing loss which impacts on their ability to fully participate in society which are addressed in this Plan.”

Brian Lamb OBE, Chair of the Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance, said: “The impact of hearing loss on peoples overall health and well-being has been hugely underestimated until now. The Action Plan is a welcome and essential step to ensure that there is a more joined up approach across pubic services working with the hearing loss sector. We know that if people are supported to address their hearing loss early they will have better health and well-being leading to less pressure on health and social care services in the future. We have the technology and knowledge to address hearing loss; the Action Plan will help ensure we do so.”

Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, said: “The Action Plan finally recognises hearing loss as a priority health issue, reflecting the scale of the condition that affects one in six people across the UK. We know that consistent, high-quality services are vital to ensure that people are able to seek advice from their GP, understand the impacts of, and best manage their hearing loss. We’re eager to ensure that the promised standards are developed as soon as possible, to avoid this much-anticipated Plan gathering dust on a shelf.”


  1. john stokes says:

    The biggest barrier to people with age-related loss is their GPs. GPs have limited understanding of the associated problems that come with hearing loss -their attitude is ‘ well you can hear me ok ‘.
    I asked 4 times before my Gp would refer. It would be so much better to cut the GP out of the process and for us to be able to book an NHS hearing test on the high street, just as we can with our eyes or teeth! We dont ask the GP to refer us to an optician or dentist!!!

  2. john knight says:

    This policy seems fine but in the real world people like myself are battling to get two hearing aids. How are people supposed to hear properly with one hearing aid?

  3. D Swann says:

    I just happened across this waffle on the NHS England website and it reminded me of just what a duplicitous bunch of people they are.

    “A new ‘Action Plan on Hearing Loss’ to support services for deaf people and those with diminishing hearing has been produced by NHS England and the Department of Health. Aimed at commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, GPs and healthcare providers, the report identifies multiple health and social issues associated with hearing loss. It recommends ways that services for children, young people, working age and older adults living with hearing loss can be improved.”

    In our area, the North Staffs Clinical Commissioning group plans to withdraw the supply of hearing aids to those with what they describe as “age related hearing loss” , as part of as cost cutting excercise. So they think this is how services can be improved do they, having already accepted the detrimental affect in a number of areas that hearing loss can have on people’s lives. It also begs the question as to why they are able ignore the Equality Act 2012 which came into force in October of that year which makes it quite clear that it is illegal for health and social care providers to discriminate in the treatment they provide on the grounds of age I fail to see how this can be described any other way as the clue is in the description given by the Clinical Commissioning Group ie “age related hearing loss”

  4. Kathleen Hill says:

    Whilst this action plan is very welcome I fear it does not go far enough. CCGs will still have responsibility for commissioning services. North Staffordshire CCG has decided to stop provision of hearing aids to adults with mild age/noise related hearing loss and limit the provision to those with moderate hearing loss who will have to meet certain criteria in addition to their audiogram threshold readings. Some other CCGs are reducing their audiology services and in some areas will limit patients to one hearing aid even if they require two. Sadly we do not have a National Health Service any longer but a postcode lottery. I wish I could welcome this plan with more enthusiasm but having spoken with Dr Shapley, the clinical chair of N Staffs CCG I feel the chances of him being persuaded to back down over the board’s decision is extremely remote. Action on Hearing Loss produced an excellent appeal document and a formal response to the CCGs proposals and the CCG admitted that they had no effect on their decision. I have written to Dr Shapley twice and received no acknowledgement. In my opinion the government has handed CCGs a poisoned chalice and patients will suffer as a result.

  5. Gloria McGregor says:

    I lead two lipreading support groups and have a website where people can practise their lipreading skills. For some time now I have asked for recognition that there should be a nationwide strategy for supporting those with hearing loss so I am delighted to see this given a higher profile. As someone who has a profound hearing loss I know how difficult life can be in the hearing world. Lipreading in my opinion should be regarded as life skill for the hard of hearing and subsidised classes provided across the country. The support found in the classes as well as the skills learned help to combat the isolation so many hard of hearing people feel. I hope that deaf awareness also features as part of this plan and I look forward to hearing more and to see the plan in action! l

  6. Helen Miller says:

    I am Chair of the Mental Health and Deafness CRG and a consultant psychiatrist at the National Adult Deaf Service at Springfield Hospital. I work with Deaf Adults whose deafness makes it difficult for them to access hearing mental health services. I write to support you in your work and in support of this excellent document. I ask that thought be given to how deaf peopel access mental health servcies and find their way from becoming mentally ill to specialsied servces. It is our clinical impression that hey are finding it harder to access health servcies at he moment (for a variety of reasons) and we would like an action (which links to 2,3,4,and 5 above) around improving access to mental health services.

  7. Philip Gerrard says:

    Deaf Direct have always felt that the major barrier to planning healthcare services for deaf and hard of hearing people is the lack of a national strategy. We therefore are pleased to see that NHS England and Department of Health have put together an action plan on hearing loss to support services. We will be using this plan in our communications with local healthcare providers in Herefordshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire.


    I think it would be wonderful if the Government did a lot more to alert the public regarding deafness, so many areas are lost in this type of disability.

    1. Lonliness often occurs when one cannot hear or join into the normal conversations.
    2. Depression often occurs as one feels totally isolated
    3. Lip reading should be made standard practice for everyone who is hard of hearing and profoundly deaf

    If just these three areas could be highlighter within the Government the public who are going or are deaf would appreciate life a lot better, nothing is ever mentioned for the deaf public, there are often talks on mental health, cancer etc but nothing on hearing, which I find is quite disappointing. To lose ones hearing can be very lonely, as most people tend to not want to keep repeating themselves or even not both to write down what they have said and you get answers like” oh forget it” which can make a person feel very lonely and alone.

  9. Carol Riley says:

    I am disappointed that there is no mention of lipreading to help people with acquired hearing loss.
    Lipreading groups not only help people to follow conversations with family and friends and in daily life, but they learn communication tactics and about environmental aids that can help them at home.
    There is also the social aspect of these groups where the deafened person can relax in the knowledge that their difficulties will be understood and they will not be rebuffed for not being able to understand the speaker..

  10. Christine Nash says:

    I am delighted to see this action plan – at long last!! I have been trying for years to get the problems of deaf/hard of hearing people recognised, I developed my own deaf awareness course and have been trying to educate people to the problems. All too often to have it pooh poohed cutrailed and forgotton and dismissed as not being relevent. I have been a lifelong hearing aid user and work in the NHS (CCG’s) I really hope this action plan changes things

  11. Sarah Mason says:

    I welcome this debate as my son was born profoundly deaf. He is 21 now. He was unemployed for 3 years after school. He had a cochlear implant in year 10. He finally got a job at jaguar Landrover on production last July. He had to leave this job last week due to debilitating concentration fatigue and frequent migraines. They even left him on the production line being sick with migraine into the scrap bins before they allowed him off the track. Another time They took his implant off him and asked what he could hear!! He is a bright young man but his employability is hugely impaired by his deafness which has a detrimental effect on his mental health. He has also had his Disability Living Allowance cancelled under the new PIP regulations. He needs my constant support to get him up in the mornings as we have tried every vibrating ala ever made and nothing wakes him up. I have to make all his phone calls for him too. I explain family conversations to him etc. Young men do not want their Mom making their phone calls for jobs etc. Please, please can someone acknowledge the difficult life profoundly deaf people have and at the very least re-Instate their DLA and give them extra help to gain suitable employment that does not negatively impact on their health. Thanks for listening. Sarah

  12. Cristian says:

    I want take action on hearing loss or any ear damage as a voluntary ? Can I have details about voluntary if is possible ?



  13. Nadien Lucas says:

    I am deaf so was pleased to read this post. I do hope the allocation of one hearing aid per person is thrown out. I have a cochlear implant & a hearing dog. I still have balance problems & feel isolated & depressed at times. It’s hard to become fully involved with the hearing world being a deaf person. Lip reading is tiring for longer than 30 minutes at a time, subtitles are shocking on most TV programmes, especially the live news. People have ‘Gone Deaf for a day with Hearing Dogs’, however this is a life sentence. I’m happy to see a new ‘Action Plan on Hearing Loss’
    being addressed.