Benefits for the hearing disabled
The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2030 adult-onset hearing loss will be one of the top ten problems in Britain, outstripping both cataracts and diabetes. So how do you get help and are there any benefits available to support the hearing disabled?
It’s easy to take your hearing for granted if you don’t experience any problems. However, if you’re one of the 10 million people in the UK who are hard of hearing, the loss of such an important sense will be felt only too acutely.
By 2031 it’s estimated that the number of Britons with hearing difficulties will have rocketed to 14.5 million and with more older than younger people affected, it’s something that has the potential to affect anyone.
But just a fraction of the people affected receive any kind of auditory support. Just two million hearing aids are in use in the UK, out of an estimated six million individuals who would benefit, according to Action on Hearing Loss.
For those who are affected, or who know someone with hearing loss, there’s a range of treatments and also benefits which are available which could make life much easier.
Age makes a difference
Out of the 10 million adults in the UK with hearing loss, approximately two out of three, 6.4 million, are aged 65 or older with around a third, 3.7 million, of working age.
Men are more likely to develop hearing loss than women once they reach age 40. This is thought to be because of the greater likelihood of being exposed to industrial noise.
In the over 80s, women make up a larger proportion of those experiencing hearing loss largely because they have a greater life expectancy than men.
Some reports suggest that it takes on average a decade of experiencing with hearing loss before medical help is sought. That’s a long time to be struggling to hear when there’s free help and support available on the NHS and even privately.
If you suspect that the hearing of a friend or relative, or your own hearing is impaired, a GP can be the first step or make an appointment for a hearing test at one of the many high street hearing centres.
A GP will refer you to either an ENT Clinic or straight to the Audiology Clinic at a local NH hospital or service provider. They may often clear your ears of any wax prior to your appointment so the test results are a more accurate reflection of hearing within the inner ear.
Once you’ve had a hearing test, if a hearing aid is recommended you will be able to receive one free on the NHS (providing you qualify for NHS treatment usually, models are limited and a waiting list may apply). If you decide to go private, you will have a greater choice of hearing aids.
If you opt for the NHS route, you could typically have to wait for up to 6-12 weeks to have your device fitted but this varies depending on the part of the UK you’re in.
Once someone has been medically diagnosed as having hearing loss, there’s a range of benefits which they may be eligible to claim.
It’s important to note though that much depends on the individual’s circumstances and the extent of their hearing loss. If it’s affecting their day-to-day living then they are more likely to be eligible for support.
If you’re still of working age, you may be eligible for Personal Independence Payment (the replacement for Disability Living Allowance) as well as Employment Support Allowance. Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and Community Care Grants may also be available. If you’re on a low income, Working Tax Credit could help to top up what you earn while the Access to Work scheme could assist with the cost of travel.
Whatever your age, there’s a range of ancillary benefits for the disabled, such as:
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Reduction
- Help to purchase a vehicle from the Motability Scheme
- A railcard or bus pass
- Vehicle Tax exemption
- Help with the cost of adapting your home with a Disabled Facilities Grant
They may also be exempt from having to pay VAT on some types of products, goods or services providing you are using them for their personal use only.
Some types of benefit may be means tested or restricted if the recipient has savings. These figures are subject to change so it’s always a good idea to check rather than assume you or a relative are not eligible. The government site has lots of useful information about the benefits that could be available.
Taking the help that’s available
Hearing loss is no laughing matter and with so many people affected, it’s an area of concern which is taken very seriously. There’s not just free treatment available but also a number of benefits that you could qualify for if your hearing loss is detrimental to the quality of your life. No one should suffer in silence; getting some help today could make an amazing difference.
Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology works for UK based HearingDirect.com. She is HCPC Registered (Health Care Professions Council in the UK) and has many years experience in the hearing aids industry.
If you’re interested in helping people to live well with hearing loss, why not download our Hearing Loss Guide.
You may also like to read:
- How to help your parent manage tinnitus
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