Campaigners are accusing the NHS of imposing “cruel” cuts on people who are going deaf by denying them the hearing aids they need.
Growing numbers of NHS organisations are planning to ration access to the devices, even though they help to combat dementia, depression and social isolation among the hard of hearing.
Three of England’s 211 GP-led local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which fund treatments, are already facing heavy criticism after announcing they intend to restrict the numbers of hearing aids in order to save money.
The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG has decided to provide only one hearing aid to those who have hearing loss in both ears, even though they need two. And CCGs in North Staffordshire and Kernow in Cornwall are introducing eligibility criteria that will deny hearing aids to those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
New research shows that 22 other CCGs either plan to follow suit or are considering making changes to their audiology services that could hit the hearing-impaired.