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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:
- 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
- Earlier diagnosis – for example improving outcomes for babies with hearing loss, increasing identification of the number of children and adults in at risk groups
- 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
- 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
- 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.”