NHS Action Plan on Hearing Loss Up for Debate

By Amanda Farah Cox

On Thursday, 30 June, a debate will be held in Westminster Hall to discuss hearing healthcare in England’s National Health Service. The Action Plan on Hearing Loss, first released in March 2015, lists different recommendations for how a variety departments and initiatives in the public sector can help children and adults with different hearing impairments participate fully in everyday activities and society.

The key areas of focus outline in the report are:

  • Prevention – including hearing loss because of noise exposure and illness
  • Early Diagnosis – this involves screenings for both children and adults
  • Integrated, patient centered care – including how to improve the patient experience and treat hearing loss as a long term condition across medical disciplines
  • Helping those with hearing loss avoid isolation – this spans inclusive efforts in public, the workforce, and reducing the stigma attached to hearing loss.
  • Helping PHLs participate fully in everyday activities – whether work, education, or social activities

Developed by NHS England and the Department of Health, the Action Plan on Hearing Loss and subsequent debate will put hearing healthcare on a national agenda, and can effect policy change. According to the Action Plan, “adult onset hearing loss is among the top ten disabilities in terms of years lived with disability for those over 60 years in England,” and thus has a major impact on public services as well as society.

“Hearing loss is not just a health issue,” reads the Action Plan, “it is societal and requires an integrated approach across a range of government departments, non-departmental public bodies and stakeholder organisations across the public, private and third sectors, including children, young people and adults with hearing loss themselves.”

Particular areas addressed in the Action Plan include meeting the specific needs of military and armed forces personnel, who are disproportionately affected by noise-induced hearing loss; closing the gap between England and Europe regarding the number of cochlear implants that the state funds; and a Life Course Model which looks at the health risk factors across a lifespan. Looking at the variation according to demographics can help bridge inequalities in the prevention and treatment of hearing loss.

You can read the full report here and stream the debate live on 30 June here.