The new NICE guideline, ‘Hearing loss in adults: assessment and management’, states that the decision to fit hearing aids should be based on need alone and given their clinical efficacy and cost effectiveness should be offered at ‘the first opportunity if an individual is likely to benefit’.
The guidance, which launched on June 21st,
comes just as the nation prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, which has provided free hearing aids since its inception in 1948. Action on Hearing Loss, then known as the National Institute of the Deaf (N.I.D), played the key role in ensuring that hearing aids and batteries were available on the health service from the outset.
Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, said: “We campaigned for the existence of a NICE guideline on hearing loss and the recent publication is hugely welcome, as is their clear acknowledgement that treatment must be based on need and not on arbitrary and often misleading ‘hearing thresholds’. NICE has stated in the strongest possible terms that hearing aids – the only available treatment for the majority of those living with hearing loss – should be provided to all who need them and that restricting provision raises serious questions of inequality of access. This is a huge vindication of the campaigning we have done on this issue.
“It is also significant that this guidance has come out while the nation is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS. The NHS has been a great leveller for society, and has meant that expensive treatments such as hearing aids are free and accessible to all. This has had an incredible positive impact on the lives of those living with deafness and hearing loss over the past 70 years.”
The publication of the guideline comes following a successful campaign by the charity to protect free hearing aids on the NHS following threats from various CCGs to limit the provision for people with mild and moderate hearing loss.
In October 2015, North Staffordshire CCG stopped providing hearing aids to those with mild hearing loss and limited provision for those with moderate hearing loss, acting against overwhelming public opinion and all clinical evidence. Following this, 13 further CCGs looked at similar proposals but following Action on Hearing Loss’ engagement and intervention decided not to proceed with cuts.
The new NICE guideline also highlights the links between hearing loss and dementia. It notes the importance of dementia services being alert to hearing loss and recommends that professionals should consider referring adults with diagnosed or suspected dementia for a hearing assessment.
In recent years, the charity has worked with NICE, NHS England and the Government on a number of policies and initiatives to improve and protect audiology services, including the Action Plan on Hearing Loss.
Paul Breckell continued: “While we have made great strides in getting hearing loss recognised as a major public health issue and protecting the provision of hearing aids, we want to encourage those who use audiology services to join our campaigns network to keep us updated on their experiences in their local area. I am proud Action on Hearing Loss has been at the forefront of lobbying to ensure that everyone with deafness and hearing loss has had access to hearing aids since the NHS’ inception was announced and we will continue to fight to ensure that this doesn’t change.”
To join Action on Hearing Loss’ Campaigns Network, please visit: www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/campaigns
Case studies and more detailed information on the report are available upon request.
For media enquiries, interview requests or comment contact
Jess Reid, Action on Hearing Loss on firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 0203 227 6065.
Notes to Editors
• Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.