Medical card holders ‘waiting three years’ for hearing tests

Charity calls for ‘universal ear care’ with 8% of population having ‘significant’ hearing loss

Some 8 per cent of the adult population in Ireland have a “significant” hearing loss, according to the HSE’s 2011 audiology review. File image: iStock

Some 8 per cent of the adult population in Ireland have a “significant” hearing loss, according to the HSE’s 2011 audiology review. File image: iStock

 

Medical card holders can wait for up to three years before getting an appointment with an audiologist due to the length of waiting lists, a charity for hearing loss and deafness has claimed.

More than 20,000 people are waiting for a HSE audiology appointment, according to Chime, which has called on the Government to introduce a “national approach” to dealing with hearing issues.

“There is a huge waiting list; 10,000 kids are on the waiting list almost as of August 2020. For adults, the national service for adults with medical cards, over 10,000 people on that list. And more than 3,000 of them are waiting more than a year for an appointment,” said Brendan Lennon, head of advocacy at Chime.

“A lady in her 80s, for example, in the south east a year ago was referred by her GP for a hearing test with the HSE. She’s a medical card holder. She was told she would be waiting up to three years for an appointment. This is a lady in her 80s.”

Some 8 per cent of the adult population in Ireland have a “significant” hearing loss, according to the HSE’s 2011 audiology review.

Mr Lennon said this number is likely to increase as Ireland’s population ages, and that early intervention can help address this.

Unaddressed hearing loss can result in “ increased rates of depression, increased rates of isolation and loneliness, loss of independence, increased rates of cognitive decline and dementia”, he said.

“Chime is calling on the Government to prioritise the provision of universal hearing and ear care for all our citizens. The Government needs to implement measures to tackle the long waiting lists and ramp up the level of hearing aids being prescribed – currently Ireland prescribes hearing aids at less than half the rate of the UK.”

Martin Mulry, from The Hearing Consultancy, said the number of people being diagnosed with hearing loss had increased in recent years, but he believed this is due to advances in medical technology.

“We do see the age profile coming down. The latest generation tend to be younger when they’re being diagnosed, because they go to concerts or wear earphones. There is a lot more noise-induced damage,” Mr Mulry said.

Mr Lennon and Mr Mulry were speaking in advance of World Hearing Day 2021, a campaign by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which seeks to prevent hearing loss and promoting access to hearing care.

On Wednesday, WHO released its first world report on hearing, which warned that nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide - or one in four people - will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.

At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services unless action is taken, the report found.

The HSE did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.