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The importance of identifying hearing loss early

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on a person's health and quality of life, so early intervention is essential.

Hearing loss is often termed the ‘hidden disability’ yet it affects 20% of the global population. By 2050, one in four people are expected to have some form of hearing loss, with 700m expected to have a moderate or higher loss in their ‘better ear’.

The impact of a hearing loss is not just based on the severity of the loss, but whether it is addressed with a clinical intervention. Having an undiagnosed hearing loss can impact on cognition, mental health and self-esteem and is associated with slips, trips, falls, dementia, social isolation and depression, particularly amongst older people.1

There is also a societal impact, with the national costs of hearing loss estimated to be at £25bn per annum in 2015.1

Health impacts of hearing loss

Those with an undiagnosed loss are twice as likely to develop dementia and are 2.5 times more likely to develop depression. These individuals are also likely to have a lower quality of life, suffer from social withdrawal and have limited social interaction which can negatively impact on their relationships.2

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the sense of social isolation for many and has led to an increase in unmet need. Those with an undiagnosed loss often rely on lip and speech reading, however, with the requirement to wear face masks and the need to social distance, communication has been increasingly difficult for those with a hearing loss, resulting in patients struggling to maintain social contact.

While the easing of restrictions is better for those suffering with a hearing loss, these patients need the support of primary care and hearing specialists to enable them to reconnect with friends, family, and society.

The good news is that much of the above can be positively influenced by early detection and treatment.

How to help patients

It is estimated that on average, people wait 10 years to seek advice on a hearing loss.3 Therefore, with the support of primary care, community providers such as Specsavers, can get patients the support they need quicker.

It may simply be a case of referring those that present in your practice seeking help. However, in other instances, primary care plays a pivotal role in getting reluctant patients to acknowledge that they may have a loss that can be aided.

Specsavers is commissioned to provide an NHS-funded audiology service in over 60% of England. You can find out if if your patients are eligible for this service here.

In areas where we are able to see patients on the NHS, eligible patients can be referred via e-referral, referral management centre (where available) and through contacting our designated contact centre on CAPCCG.referrals-specsavers@nhs.net

Unfortunately, in those areas where we are not currently commissioned to provide an NHS-funded service, we are unable to accept referrals. However, we are able to see patients on a private basis.

Specsavers

Specsavers is a family run business, founded in 1983 by owners Doug and Mary Perkins. Since 2002, we have been committed to looking after the nation's eyes, but also their ears. In 2012, Specsavers became a provider of NHS Audiology Services, and we are now commissioned in over half of CCGs across England to provide NHS-funded services to patients.

To find out more about Specsavers NHS audiology services email specsaver.nhsaudiology@nhs.net

This article was funded by Specsavers for GP Connect

References

  1. NHS England, Department of Health. Action Plan on Hearing Loss. London: NHS England, 2015.
  2. World Health Organization. World Report on Hearing. World Health Organization, 2021.
  3. NHS England. Commissioning Services for People with Hearing Loss: A framework for clinical commissioning groups. London: NHS England, 2016.

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