Health & Well-being5th January 2015

Cutting The Number of Hearings to Save Money Will Cost More

With more local clinical commissioning groups set to cut back on providing hearing aids, is the longer term cost being ignored

by Sarah Lawrence

The Government has to balance its books, we get that. The country’s finances are still in a mess and further cuts need to be made. But are we seriously expected to believe that the next ‘big cut’ has to be reducing the number of hearing aids being given to people who need them!!

Attacking the deaf work force through severe reductions in Access to Work grants is one thing, but taking decisions that will leave our mums and dads, grand parents, aunties and uncles, children and WWII war veterans isolated from their friends, families and society is such a cruel act, it beggars belief.

Deaf charity, Action on Hearing Loss has been instrumental is raising the developing problem of local clinical commissioning groups reducing the number of hearing aids it provides, a decision that will leave many people isolated and vulnerable to associated illnesses. A deeply troubling problem for many of the estimated 10 million people in the UK who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, the decision has already been made in three areas to ‘ration’ hearing aids, but the new research by Action on Hearing Loss has discovered that a further 22 local clinical commissioning groups plan to make similar cuts, with a risk that more will follow.

Louise Hart from Action on Hearing Loss, commented, “To deny somebody the right to a good quality of life – the opportunity to be an active member of the community, interact with family and friends, or even to continue working – is akin to saying to someone, ‘I can make your life better by giving you hearing aids but I’m not going to’. It’s wrong, it’s cruel.“

More crucial to people’s well-being than any research can capture, access to free hearing aids on the NHS has been in place for over 60 years. One of our writers, Ernest James, who has age related deafness, experienced tremendous isolation from family and friends until he was fitted with hearing aids. They have been life changing and allows him to, “perform the proper role of a grand parent, in reminiscing and sharing experiences with my grand children once again.” He still wears the old fashioned behind the ear hearing aids because his audiologist has told him he is bottom of the queue for digital ones because he is too old, but at least he has two and they help him greatly.

With forecasts suggesting that even greater numbers of people will experience hearing loss in the years to come, decisions are being taken that could actually cost the NHS more money through associated and linked health problems. Seemingly short-sighted about the potential financial impact of these decisions, you have to wonder at the thinking behind these grave decisions. “Whilst money may be saved in the short-term and look good on a financial forecast, the longer term impact is likely to be pain and suffering for hordes of people, that pain and suffering playing itself out in increased visits to GP surgeries and hospitals”, one interested commentator explained to me.

It is a shame that people will suffer before the folly of these decisions fully come to light!

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

5th January 2015