Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

Evidence submitted by Help the Aged (AUDIO 24)

  Help the Aged is delighted to have the opportunity to input to the Health Select Committee's inquiry into audiology services. Clearly we are not a specialist agency in the area of hearing impairment, however we know that hearing impairment is extremely common amongst older people, and they are often in the greatest need of audiology services.

  Help the Aged is happy to support the recommendations outlined by the RNID in their submission to this inquiry. We support their view that waiting times for audiology services need to be closely monitored with the same targets applied as for consultant led clinics.

  Help the Aged believes that the high level of unmet need for hearing aids is a serious cause for concern—some half a million people in England are still waiting for a hearing aid. Furthermore, an Audit Commission report, Fully Equipped, published in 2000, found that health authorities issued hearing aids to less than 20% of the population who needed them.

  Provision of hearing aids is a key issue because older people who are unable to hear properly are at serious risk of becoming isolated, as they avoid social interactions. This is a particular problem for older people, as many are already affected by other risk factors for isolation such as low income, and decreased levels of mobility and independence.

  Older people say that having social networks is a high priority for them, and their withdrawal from social interactions can lead to poor mental health, with loss of self esteem and depression. Failure to provide hearing aids can therefore have an extremely wide-ranging impact on older people's health and well-being.

  Given the Government's stated policy of promoting independence and well-being amongst older people, we believe the failure to make adequate provision for hearing aids simply does not make sense.

  NHS commissioners are required to plan services based on the needs and priorities of the local population. If only 20% of the population who need hearing aids are receiving them, then this is clearly not happening.

  There is a pattern of services of primary importance to older people not being given priority by health commissioners: podiatry and foot care are another prime example. We believe that this indicates that age discrimination is impacting commissioning decisions.

  I hope that this information is helpful. Please get in touch if we can be of any further assistance.

Kate Jopling

Help the Aged

February 2007

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