The UK Releases a New Action Plan on Hearing Loss

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (UK) was launched in 1948.  It was borne out of a long-held ideal that good uk1healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth,  a principle that remains central to its mission. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptionsoptical and dental services, the NHS in England remains free for any UK resident. It currently serves more than 64.1 million people in the UK, including 53.9 million people in England alone.  In fact, the NHS in England deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours, covering everything from pre-natal and routine screenings such as the NHS Health Check, treatments for long-term conditions, transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care.

The UK, through the NHS, has long had a specific national health program for the hearing impaired.  Last week, Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the  National Health Service (NHS) published the Action Plan for Hearing Loss.  While much of the report was prepared by NHS consultants, Dr. Keogh states in his forward to the report, “A particular challenuk3ge is meeting the hearing needs of the rapidly growing older population”.

He states that “5.3 million older people (aged over 65) in England have a hearing loss and this will have a disproportionate effect on their wider physical and mental health, independence and ability to work. Moreover, hearing loss is not just a health issue – it is societal and requires an

Dr. Bruce Keogh
Dr. Bruce Keogh

integrated approach across a range of government departments, non-departmental public bodies and stakeholder organizations across the public, private and third sectors, including children, young people and adults with hearing loss themselves.”

The document, released March 23, is unique in that it prioritizes issues that matter to hearing-impaired people, their families, and caregivers in the UK.

Puk1riorities Listed in the Document

  • Reducing the stigma related to having a hearing loss;
  • Designing public services and public spaces to support good communication;
  • Providing better communication support and understanding in the workplace, including timely access to assistive devices, language support (for example British Sign Language (BSL) or Signed Supported English) and speech-to-text;
  • Undertaking more research into the causes of and management of hearing loss and tinnitus;
  • Promoting strategies for the prevention of hearing loss, and an understanding of hearing awareness;
  • Encouraging early awareness, diagnosis and management of hearing loss;
  • Person-centered planning, which is responsive to information and social needs;
  • Providing timely access or signposting to communication support, lip-reading classes, hearing therapy or counseling, support groups, befriending services and assistive technologies; uk
  • Promoting inclusion and participation, by ensuring that all public services are accessible and support language and communication needs.

To facilitate the goals the UK Action Plan on Hearing Loss sets out five key objectives by which these goals can be achieved:

Objective #1:  Preventionuk6

To improve the hearing health of all communities, improve equalities and reduce inequalities through prevention of hearing loss; to ensure that diverse communities are aware of the importance of good hearing and communication; and that effective and up-to-date communication support is provided promptly for those living with hearing loss to ensure they realize their aspirations.

Objective #2: Early diagnosis uk7

To ensure that all people with hearing loss are diagnosed early (with a particular focus on early identification of hearing loss in disadvantaged groups and groups with higher risks and prevalence), and that they are managed effectively once diagnosed.

Objective #3: Integrated, patient centered management uk8

To have services which are integrated, work collaboratively, and focus upon the individual needs of the person with hearing loss, inclusive of any other co-existing physical and mental health conditions and pathologies, to provide a patient centered management and decision making partnership.

Objective #4: Ensuring those diagnosed do not need unscheduled care or become isolateduk9

To ensure that people with hearing loss, in all communities, are supported to stay as well as possible and are included in all approaches to reducing the incidence of other conditions and to reduce the need for unscheduled healthcare and mitigate the risk of isolation.

Objective #5: Ability to partake in every-day activities including workuk10

To ensure that people of all ages with hearing loss of all severities are actively supported to participate fully in society, and are not limited in their potential to succeed in education, employment, family and community life, all facets of individual living, and in the pursuit of sport, leisure and other activities.

Kudos to Dr. Keogh and the UK National Health Service for their new Action Plan on Hearing Loss!



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About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.