The Latest Hearing Technologies: Uptake and Evaluation

Executive Summary

“You lose total self esteem, you don’t want to mix, anything like that because that’s what deafness does to you”. (Individual with hearing loss, The Ear Foundation, 2011)

Advances in hearing technology have given access to speech to many individuals with hearing loss where previously there was little to help them. The current report provides detailed information on the most recent available data on

  •         the prevalence of hearing loss, 
  •         the uptake of hearing aid technology and the public, private, retail and wholesale hearing aid market,
  •         the perspectives of individuals with hearing loss, 
  •         the range of currently available hearing technologies
  •         and a range of assistive technologies available for individuals with hearing loss.

The findings from the report reveal that:

  • Deafness has a significant functional impact for individuals in their daily routines, living at home, at work and in social and formal situations. 
  • Early onset hearing loss (in childhood) impacts on the development of spoken language, reading ability, educational attainment and future employability.
  • Late onset hearing loss impacts individuals‟ communication abilities leading to feelings of isolation, low self esteem and reduced independence.
  • Advancements in hearing technologies provide individuals with hearing loss with the opportunity to overcome many of the challenges they face with routine auditory tasks.
  • Deaf children fitted early in life with hearing technology can (if other things are equal) be expected to acquire spoken language and age appropriate educational attainment. 
  • Hearing technologies can significantly improve the quality of life and meet the communication needs for adults with hearing loss.
  • Although hearing technologies do provide considerable benefit, challenges associated with background noise, distance and room acoustics can have a significant impact on the potential benefits of these hearing technologies. Assistive technologies such as FM systems, telecoil and speech to text facilities can help overcome
  • The most current figures from Action on Hearing Loss (AoHL) show 10.1 million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss.
  • The most recent iData Research (2011) figures show 3.2 million people suffering with hearing loss are hearing aid users. With the figure expected to rise up to 4.2 million by 2017.
  • In 2010 the UK had the second largest hearing aid penetration rate in Europe at 35.3% and this is expected to rise by 2017 to 40%. 
  • Just over 80% of the hearing aids provided in the UK are done so by the public sector (NHS) and approximately less than 20% are provided through the private sector.
  • Although the NHS provide 80% of the hearing aids, because of their purchasing power and the lower prices on hearing aids they can command, they hold 55.6% of the total market share.
  • The private retail companies own approximately 45% of the total market share of the UK.
  • Two of the five largest companies in the private sector are owned by optical store groups, with Specsavers holding 7.6% of the total market share and The Hearing Company (owned by Scrivens Optical Group) holding 2.8% of the total market share in 2010. 
  • In 2010, the total retail market share for hearing aids in the UK was worth €617.6 million and the total wholesale market  was worth €121.8 million
  • The findings from the most recent European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA; 2009) commissioned research identified the more severe the perceived hearing loss the higher the hearing aid adoption rate.
  • The stage of the patient journey at which the highest percentage of dropout rates for individuals with hearing loss who seek advice was after discussing their hearing loss with their GP or ENT doctor. 39% of individuals decided not to have a hearing aid after this stage. When considering individuals with lower degrees of hearing loss the dropout rate at the GP/ENT stage increased to 64%.
  • Individuals who had purchased their hearing aid from the private sector were slightly more satisfied than those who had received it through the NHS. Similarly those who had the more recent technology were more satisfied than those with the older technology.
  • The most important influencing factor for non owners of hearing aids to purchase/obtain hearing aids was if their GP/family doctor would recommend it. 
  • The findings highlight the importance of GPs in the decision making process for individuals with hearing loss. This has serious implications for future uptake of hearing aids and amplification technology bearing in mind the recent government initiatives of GP consortia and any qualified provider (AQP).
  • A range of hearing technology is currently available for individuals who cannot benefit from standard hearing aids including cochlear implants, electro-acoustic implants, bone conduction hearing aids, middle ear implants and brainstem implants. These technologies are rapidly developing with outcomes improving.
  • Assistive technologies available to people using amplification technology include the use of FM technology and telecoil/induction loops. 
  • The use of speech to text technology as subtitles, in meetings or conferences through palantypists and through captioning at theatres and performance venues by companies like STAGETEXT, also help provide all individuals with hearing loss access to speech. 


Download the full report: External version- Report for NHS Innovations by The Ear Foundation.pdf


Our thanks to Innovations for assistance in this study.