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Specsavers calls for nationally commissioned audiology service in Wales

An event in the Senedd called for primary care audiology services to be commissioned to help tackle a ‘hearing crisis’ in Wales

Doug Perkins is speaking at a podium in front of bright green Specsavers branding
Specsavers

Specsavers has called for a nationally commissioned audiology and ear wax removal service in Wales to address what it has called a ‘hearing crisis’ in the country.

Utilising community audiologists for routine services such as hearing check-ups would “significantly cut NHS waiting times and reduce pressure on hospitals,” the multiple said.

One in six people in Wales are either deaf or have hearing loss and 10,000 adults are waiting for NHS hearing loss services, Specsavers revealed.

In order to tackle the issue, Specsavers has asked the Welsh Government to improve access to community audiology services for everyone in Wales.

The Let Wales Be Heard: adult age-related hearing loss event, hosted by Specsavers alongside Welsh Conservative politician, Natasha Asghar, took place in the Senedd on Tuesday 6 February.

The event emphasised the steps that can be taken to improve access to audiology services.

Angharad Morris, head of clinical engagement for Specsavers Audiology, noted that 527,000 people in Wales are either deaf or have hearing loss.

“NHS waiting lists for routine appointments, such as hearing check-ups and ear wax removal, are hitting all-time highs in Wales, with 10,000 people waiting several months or longer to be seen,” Morris said.

She added: “Specsavers is calling on the Welsh Government to commission these services so people with hearing issues can receive timely support in their local High Street, similar to services offered in areas of England. This would improve their quality of life as well as minimise impact to their long-term health.”

A national audiology and ear wax removal service could be delivered by community audiologists on the High Street and would mean patients no longer had to travel to hospital for hearing care, Specsavers said.

It would also reduce NHS waiting times, alleviating pressure on hospital services and local GPs.

Speaking at the Senedd event, Russell George, shadow minister for health and chair of Health and Social Care Committee, said: “Making NHS hearing services more accessible on the High Street would help to break down stigma and normalise hearing loss.

“This would result in more people getting their hearing checked if they have any concerns, and also improve the quality of life for those who need hearing aids.”

Joel James, shadow minister for social partnership, said that he is “actively challenging” the fact that the NHS does not commission hearing care in the same way it does eye care or pharmacy services.

“As someone who suffers from hearing loss and wears hearing aids, one of my top priorities is to help those in a similar position,” James said.

“Sadly, hearing loss has a massive impact on our cognitive health, leading to dementia, and mental health issues. In Wales, 125,000 people with hearing loss live alone, leaving them even more isolated and vulnerable.”

James added: “Frustratingly, while the NHS in Wales has long worked with High Street opticians, dentists, doctors, and pharmacists to offer free NHS services, it doesn’t commission similar primary care services from audiologists. This has led to long waiting lists just for people to have a hearing test, let alone be fitted for hearing aids.”

Doug Perkins (pictured), chairman and co-founder of Specsavers, who is a hearing aid wearer, also spoke at the event.

Perkins said: “Specsavers was set up to ensure everyone has access to care. Being Welsh born myself and carrying out my optometry studies at Cardiff University, improving access to hearing services in Wales is a cause that is very important to me.”

He added: “At Specsavers, we believe passionately in the life-changing outcomes of hearing care. We are dedicated to driving forward these changes for people in Welsh communities.”