NHS rationing hearing aids
The NHS has begun rationing hearing aids. Some areas are restricting the availabilty of hearing aids to only those with severe hearing loss while in other places only one hearing aid is being offered.
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in North Staffordshire and Kernow, Cornwall, have announced that they are introducing eligibiltiy criteria that will see those with mild to moderate hearing loss denied hearing aids.
Other CCGs in Northern, Eastern and Western Devon have decided to provide just one hearing aid to patients, even though they suffer with hearing loss in both ears and experts have advised that two hearing aids would be beneficial.
A further five CCG are preparing to decommission some of their audiology services. Another six are also said to be reviewing their audiology services.
The proposed reductions in audiology services across the NHS could have a huge effect on the quality of life of those who use the services. Louise Hart of Action on Hearing Loss said, “If you have hearing loss but don’t have hearing aids, you are more prone to depression”.
In our experiences, clients often advise that whilst they used to have active social lives they no longer go out to restaurants or pubs or to the cinema because their hearing loss causes them to struggle to follow conversations. Hearing problems can also cause issues within the home as continually not hearing or mishearing someone can lead to arguments.
It is estimated that around 10 million people in the UK suffer with some kind of hearing loss. Currently around 2 million sufferers have hearing aids, these tend to be older people. Of those who wear hearing aids, 84% had these provided by the NHS.
The cost of a hearing test to the NHS is £49. A hearing test with the fitting of one hearing aid costs £294, raising to £388 to fit two hearing aids.
It is thought that one in seven people with hearing aids go through a private hearing aid provider. The cost of these averages around £3,000 a pair.
Many clients have approached us to pursue claims for noise induced hearing loss compensation after looking into the cost of private hearing aids. Many of those who suffer with hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work do not become aware of the problem until they are in their later years and are often retired and simply cannot afford the cost of expensive private hearing aids.
The proposed cuts to audiology services across the country are likely to affect a large number of people and could encourage other CCGs to follow suit.
Dr Roger Wicks of Action on Hearing Loss warned that there could be a “domino effect” of similar cuts. He also stated that, “Hearing aids have been free on the NHS since its creation in 1948 and this is the first time routine provision has come under threat. It’s driven by the need to cut costs and has nothing to do with people’s health needs”.