Hearing technology can transform a person’s life, the challenge we currently face is how they access it.
Thousands of people with hearing loss have been unable to benefit from hearing instruments during the pandemic. For these people, comorbidities such as depression and cognitive decline are inevitable. We face a major healthcare crisis as a result of this unmet need.
Coronavirus effect on hearing loss sufferers
The pandemic brought with it three major issues for those suffering from untreated hearing loss. Firstly, stopping people from accessing ENT audiology services. Secondly, forcing them into isolation, as their hearing issues continued to worsen, making their tenuous connection with the world even more remote. Thirdly, creating a pent-up demand for hearing instruments that has untold economic, social and healthcare consequences.
Hearing industry response
Our members’ overriding concern at the start of the pandemic was the speed with which the industry needed to provide remote care safely to patients.
Manufacturers had to work with audiologists to swiftly move the fitting, servicing, and supply of hearing instruments online. Now our concern lies with the pent-up demand that is starting to materialise and how we can ensure people get access to much needed care.
There are one in five adults with hearing loss in the UK, the majority of whom can be helped with hearing technology.
GP referral issues
The hearing care crisis is further challenged by GP support. A patients’ first port of call for hearing loss is their GP. But research shows there is a knowledge gap with GPs that is stopping patients from getting access to vital audiology care.
To address this issue an educational toolkit has been created for GPs to support them in delivering better care for patients with hearing loss. Developed by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), in collaboration with hearing loss charity RNID and NHS England & Improvement, it is sponsored by BIHIMA. The aim of the toolkit is to support and train GPs to consult more effectively with patients.
Addressing unmet need
There are one in five adults with hearing loss in the UK, the majority of whom can be helped with hearing technology. The pandemic will leave in its wake a vast scale of unmet need that the hearing care profession will work to address. Better hearing loss education for GPs will significantly help the healthcare community meet this need and ensure more people have access to life changing hearing instruments.