The threat to NHS hearing aids
NHS hearing aids are under threat despite government guidance outlining the need to support people with hearing loss, and explaining the vital role that hearing aids play. That’s why we're fighting hard to ensure that Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), who commission hearing aid services across England, understand the importance of providing them to everybody who needs them, so that they don't consider cutting them.
How hearing aids help
Our Hearing Matters report presents the most up-to-date facts and figures on deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss, and calls for hearing aids to remain free of charge on the NHS for everyone who needs them.
If you don't suffer from hearing loss, it's difficult to imagine exactly how vital hearing aids are for those that do. Click on the sound clips below to hear what a person with hearing loss might experience without a hearing aid.
Why it's important NHS hearing aids are available
People with hearing loss describe hearing aids as their lifeline. They help people stay connected to their family, their friends and their workplace, and help to prevent the isolation that can accompany hearing loss. There's clear and growing evidence that hearing aids improve quality of life, communication, relationships, self-confidence, social participation and overall health, and that they reduce depression and anxiety. There's even evidence that hearing aids may slow the progress of dementia.
It costs the NHS under £400 to supply a patient with hearing aids and follow up support. Cuts to the service would mean that people with hearing loss have no choice but to purchase hearing aids from private providers at an average cost of £3,000 per pair.
In 2016, NHS England published ‘Commissioning Services for People with Hearing Loss: A framework for clinical commissioning groups’. In this document, NHS England makes clear that hearing loss is a “major public health challenge”, and calls on CCGs to tackle uncorrected hearing loss and the variation in access and quality of services. It even provides CCGs with suggestions for how to save costs without cutting hearing aid provision.
Despite all of this, some CCGs have explored cutting hearing aid services, ignoring the impact on local people, or the long-term additional costs that are likely to be incurred as people without support for their hearing loss struggle to communicate with health and social care services, face challenges managing other conditions, and need more, expensive, help later on as a result.
We have successfully fought off cuts proposed by a number of CCGs, and will continue to challenge any further cuts that are proposed. We're determined to secure the future provision of NHS hearing aids.
To find out more about the importance of hearing aids, read our report Hearing Matters.
For further information about hearing aids, see our section Hearing aids