The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) has announced its support for the campaign calling for state-funded hearing checks for everyone when they reach the age of 65.
The campaign is spearheaded by charities such as Action on Hearing Loss and the Ear Foundation, but support for the measure is not industry wide. However, BIHIMA believes that any programme which promotes access to the life-changing technology developed by its members is not only desirable: it is vital.
Currently, the NHS assesses the hearing health of new babies through the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, but the most recent review by the UK National Screening Committee did not support screening for hearing loss in adults.
BIHIMA believes this needs to change. As well as a national screening programme for the over 65s, the practise of regular hearing checks should be promoted as ‘the new normal’, in the same way as we have our eyes and teeth routinely checked. Despite the fact that hearing loss affects over 11 million adults and 45, 000 children in the UK (1 in 6 of the population), very few people ever get their hearing checked.
A “new normal” would also reduce the cost of hearing problems wider society. The UK loses approximately £25 billion a year in productivity and unemployment as a result of poor hearing health. Action on Hearing Loss estimates that a hearing screening programme for people aged 65 would cost £255 million over 10 years, but the benefits across this period would amount to over £2 billion: a 10-year benefit-to-cost ratio of 8:1.
“These big numbers represent millions of individual lives – lives which could be transformed through better awareness about hearing health and through access to the innovative hearing technology developed by our members,” says BIHIMA chairman, Paul Surridge.
In the absence of a screening programme at present, BIHIMA would encourage individuals to make hearing checks part of their normal healthcare routine. Anyone can ask their GP or a national chain or an independent audiologist for a hearing test, or you can use one of the many online tests.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
– BIHIMA represents the hearing instrument manufacturers of Britain and Ireland, working in partnership with other professional, trade, regulatory and consumer organisations within the health care and charitable sectors. We raise consumer awareness about the latest hearing technology, and aim to influence government and policy makers to improve the lives of people with hearing difficulties.