My thoughts on the NHS Hearing report

Across the pond in the UK, a report has been released about equitable access to hearing services.  The National Health Service (NHS) has developed a document called Commissioning Services for People with Hearing Loss: A framework for clinical commissioning groups.  This report was developed by the Office of the Chief Scientific Officer.  Her opening remarks in the report are timely:

“Hearing problems are a growing challenge across society with over nine million people in England living with some form of hearing loss which impacts on their ability to fully participate in society. The scale of this issue requires a broad response from the health and care system and beyond. “

The report goes on to say “Hearing is central to our health and well-being. Approximately, one in six people experiences hearing loss, which is a major cause of poor development of language and communication skills and also impacts on employment, mental health, independence and quality of life. It is responsible for an enormous personal, social and economic impact throughout life. It will become an even bigger challenge over the next decade due to the growing ageing population and increased exposure to workplace and social noise such as MP3 players. Hearing loss affects people who are born deaf and people who experience it later in life……..”

Various studies have drawn the link between untreated hearing loss and consequences that severely impact on quality of life and employment opportunities, and this has been recognised in the UK, in the report Action on Hearing Loss, 2015, which  encouraged action to “promote change across all public service departments and stakeholder organisations across the voluntary, professional and private sectors, to deliver improved services and hearing outcomes and support for the increasing numbers of people with hearing loss“.

The Action on Hearing Loss report underlines that:

“There is an association between hearing loss, poor mental health outcomes and dementia in particular. People with hearing loss often experience isolation and depression with an increased risk of a major depression or a more serious moderate to severe depression. A recent review of the literature on hearing loss and mental health suggests that older people with hearing loss are 2.5 times more likely to develop depression than those without hearing loss and estimates suggest that children who are deaf have a 40% prevalence rate of mental health problems compared to 25% in children who are hearing. People with hearing loss also often suffer stigma from the hearing population. Hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia in people over 60 years old. People with mild hearing loss have nearly twice the risk of developing dementia compared to people with normal hearing, and the risk increases threefold for people with moderate and fivefold for people with severe hearing loss. Hearing loss has recently been independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident cognitive impairment.”

The recommendations go further and address key issues, which are important across the world, and include the need to:

  • Reduce the stigma related to hearing loss;
  • Design public services and public spaces to support good communication;
  • Provide better communication support and understanding in the workplace,
  • Promote strategies for the prevention of hearing loss, and an understanding of hearing awareness;
  • Encouraging early awareness, diagnosis, and management of hearing loss;
  • Embrace Person-centred planning, which is responsive to information and social needs;
  • Promote inclusion and participation.

It’s notable that one of the recommendations in the Action on Hearing Loss report is equitable access to innovative technologies including support by mobile or telehealthcare for any long-term conditions, in order to create greater independence and ageing well.

Australia is leading by example here with Blamey Saunders hears leading in teleaudiology and hearing aids that can be set up at home and managed remotely.

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