National plan for hearing loss aims to spread good practice at work

National plan for hearing loss aims to spread good practice at work

Action Plan on Hearing Loss is a national programme to spread good practice. This year NHS England published guidance on hearing loss in employment and is working with occupational health practitioners to encourage good practice at work. Sonia Fleming, programme lead, explains.

Hearing loss affects over 10 million adults and 45, 000 children in the UK (WHO, February 2017). This equates to 1 in 6 of the population and has an enormous personal, social and economic impact (WHO, February 2017). By 2031, it is estimated that 14.5 million people in the UK, approximately 20% of the population, will have a hearing loss (WHO, February 2017).

The direct cost to the NHS of managing hearing loss is estimated to cost up to £450 million a year (NHS England, March 2015). The implications for hearing loss are widespread, and affect what work people are fit to do, how we age, and our overall wellbeing.

Most causes of hearing loss are avoidable, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has specifically recognised the importance of preventative strategies and interventions to tackle work related, noise-induced hearing loss, in addition to issues related to recreational and environmental noise-induced hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss is likely to continue to rise unless concrete steps are taken.

In May 2017, the World Health Assembly in Geneva passed a new resolution and action plan for prevention of deafness and hearing loss setting out important actions needed to make progress in dealing with this public health issue. The resolution has called for specific actions which are needed at a country level.

These include raising awareness and building political commitment to tackling hearing loss, integrating strategies for ear hearing care in the health system and improving data to implement policy and legislation for prevention. In addition, countries are to improve their access to hearing services and screening programmes, develop human resources for ear and hearing care and encourage other forms of communication.

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