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Millions living out their retirement in silence: ILC-UK launch new Commission on Hearing Loss

Leading think tank on ageing, the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) is warning of the growing number of people who will be living out their retirement in silence [2]. Six million people in the UK experience at a level where they would benefit from wearing a hearing aid and this is set to increase to 10 million by 2037 as a result of population ageing. This is equivalent to 17% of all UK adults – an increase on 11% today [3].

Hearing loss is all too often is ignored in the hierarchy of needs of older people or in fact accepted as an inevitable part of the ageing process. Research shows that hearing loss is related to reduced quality of life in a number of ways including; poor health and mobility, lower levels of mental wellbeing, reduced cognitive ability and increased risk of dementia.

Despite such large numbers with hearing loss and the significant implications of it, public awareness is low and this is reflected in public policy which has failed to develop a coherent strategy in the face of this rising problem.

In order to address this significant and growing problem, the ILC-UK has set up the on Hearing Loss[1] to explore the wide-reaching implications of hearing loss and how to address them.

Over the next two months the Commission will be holding two open evidence sessions and calling for written evidence. The final report of the Commission, shedding light on this issue and identifying public policy solutions, will be published in July 2014.

Chair of the Commission and Chief Executive of the ILC-UK, Baroness Sally Greengross said:

“Hearing loss is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of our ageing society. Yet many people who experience hearing loss do not seek help – sometimes because they are unaware that their hearing has deteriorated and sometimes because it is seen as a natural part of the ageing process.

But we know that early detection of hearing loss as well as appropriate adaptations by employers and service providers can deliver significant improvements for the individual. It is time to grasp the nettle on hearing loss with the Commission playing a pivotal role in driving the agenda forward”.

Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of the UK’s largest hearing loss charity, , said:

“A staggering one in six of us are already affected by some form of hearing loss, yet it remains largely ignored and stigmatised within our society. On average, it takes a decade for someone to get the help they need – a sad fact when you consider the impact hearing loss can have on everything from daily conversations to personal relationships and staying in work. This is exactly why Action on Hearing Loss is urging the Government to introduce free hearing screening for everyone aged 65 and over. The Commission’s evidence-gathering is a very welcome step towards getting hearing loss recognised as a serious health issue that needs tackling, rather than something you just get on with as you grow older.”

The Commission will be taking oral and written evidence over the coming months and will report its findings in early July. If you would like to know more about the work of the Commission or would like to submit written evidence please email: [email protected]

The Commissioners include:

Chair: Baroness Sally Greengross
Paul Breckell: Chief Executive, Action on Hearing Loss
Rosie Cooper MP, Member of Parliament for West Lancashire
William Brassington, President of the British Academy of Audiology
Peter Ormerod, Boots hearingcare
Elspeth Howe, Baroness Howe of Idlicote


1.This will be an independent commission, with the ILC-UK providing the governance and secretariat while the Commissioners, drawn from a wide range of different sectors, will drive the agenda and findings.

2.The International Longevity Centre-UK is the leading think tank on longevity and demographic change. It is an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to addressing issues of longevity, ageing and population change. We develop ideas, undertake research and create a forum for debate. http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/

3.These calculations based on Davis (1995) hearing loss prevalence rates by age band and the latest ONS population projections (2012 Principal Population Projections). Prevalence rates are therefore assumed to remain constant over time. This method of calculating the number of people suffering hearing loss is consistent with the approach taken by Action on Hearing Loss (2011) and Forman and Holeman (2014).

4.This project has been kindly made possible by Boots Hearingcare.

International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK)