80% of all hearing aids in the UK are fitted by the NHS. The service currently caters for all hearing needs for all populations from paediatrics to the elderly. However with the increasing demand for cut backs, an ageing population and the ever growing number of service users, it is becoming more obvious that the NHS as we know it must change. The deficit in funding will impact on what services will be provided in the future, impacting primarily on non-urgent or minor conditions. Audiology will likely fall into this category, resulting in the dissection and termination of many of the traditional services associated with the hospital.
Discussions have already taken place in several health trusts regarding the provision of hearing aids. Some of the proposed changes included reverting to single hearing aid fitting instead of fitting pairs and even the non-issue of hearing aids to mild and moderate hearing loss. This coupled with long wait times for hearing testing, the fitting of mid-level technology as standard and reduced clinic time for patient rehabilitation means that hearing aid wearers are facing difficulties in achieving the level of care they deserve and depend on. Many people depend on the NHS provision because they can not afford to pay for quality hearing aids and many more use the NHS provision because it is the best or only option they are aware of.
But is this bad news or good news? I guess the answer depends on what provision is born as a result of the change. Change is long overdue for the hearing aid market in the UK, because the NHS has been the primary provision it has lead to a lack of innovation with regards to the service provision. While the technology has advanced enormously very little has changed in the way of where or how hearing aids are provided.
Much like what happened to the optics market hearing aids will become commoditised and transfer into a more commercial environment. What will probably happen is that complex needs patients, paediatrics and implantable devices will remain at the hospital. Hearing tests and hearing aids will be delivered by high street providers, with vouchers for the very elderly or those on low-incomes.
In the short term it is likely that it will probably result in clinicians down playing the severity of hearing problems so that fewer people get the necessary treatment as well as trivialise the attitudes associated with hearing loss and hearing. In the long term competition and diversity will foster a greater all round service provision meaning that people can access the best hearing healthcare possible.
If you can not wait months for hearing aids and you want to experience a first class clinical experience then why not contact Chalfont & Henley Hearing Centre on 01494 765144.