There are now 11 million people (one in six) in the UK living with hearing loss according to a new report from the national charity Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID), with the number increasing to one in five people (15.6 million) by 2035, due to an ageing population. At the same time, hearing loss is the only area that has seen a decrease in medical research funding during the last decade. The charity is urgently calling on the government to stop hearing aid cuts and protect and safeguard the provision of hearing aid services which offer a lifeline to many.
The new report, Hearing Matters, comprehensively details the scale and impact of deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss, demonstrating to NHS commissioners and employers the prevalence and need to tackle it as a major public health condition, in order for them to plan to meet the needs of the increasing number of people with hearing loss so that they are not denied the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss Chief Executive said: 'With massive unmet need, we need NHS commissioners to ensure that services are in place to support the increasing number of people with hearing loss, with research showing that people with hearing loss are more likely develop dementia and depression. The government needs to intervene now to stop the shocking cuts to hearing aids, which has happened in North Staffordshire already, which runs contrary to NHS clinical evidence as they keep people in work and avoid them being socially isolated.
'More investment is needed into researching cures for hearing loss and tinnitus, as less than 1% of UK medical research funding is spent on this major health issue - and it is the only area that has seen a decrease in funding over the last decade. With proper investment, treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus could be available by 2020, and we believe we can find a cure within a generation.'
Jonathan Gardner, Chief Executive, Boots Hearingcare added: 'Our colleagues at Boots Hearingcare are hugely proud of our partnership with Action on Hearing Loss and we are delighted to have been able to sponsor this latest edition of Hearing Matters, which I am sure will have a profound impact in ensuring that the voice of the hearing care sector is heard both in government, the health service and elsewhere in society.'
Key report findings:
- Less than 1% of medical research funding is spent on hearing loss - which is the equivalent of just £1.11 for every person affected, in comparison; £11.35 was spent on sight loss for every person affected and £19.79 on research into cardiovascular conditions.
- On average, people often take 10 years to seek help for their hearing loss, with evidence suggesting GPs fail to refer 45% of people reporting hearing problems for any intervention - which research shows can lead to communication difficulties and isolation.
- Hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression and can lead to anxiety and other mental health conditions.
- People with mild hearing loss face double the risk of developing dementia, with moderate hearing loss leading to three times the risk and severe hearing loss five times the risk of developing dementia.
- In 2013 the UK economy lost more than £24.8 billion in potential output because people with hearing loss were unable to work.
- If low employment rates for people with hearing loss are not addressed, by 2031 the UK economy will lose £38.6 billion a year.
Hearing Matters report, supported by Boots Hearingcare, will be officially launched by Action on Hearing Loss at a reception at the Houses of Parliament today (4 November) with a presentation to MPs and Members of the House of Lords highlighting the challenges faced by people with hearing loss, with Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Alastair Burt MP making a keynote speech.
To read 'Hearing Matters - why urgent action is needed on deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss across the UK', please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearingmatters.