There is an "urgent need" for hearing loss to be detected earlier as the number of people affected is set to soar, a new report suggests.
An estimated 10 million people suffer from hearing loss in the UK at present but by 2031 as many as 14.1 million people will struggle with hearing, according to a report from the think tank International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK).
The authors said that more must be done to detect problems earlier.
The NHS advises: "While hearing loss is sometimes sudden, it is often gradual and you may not notice it at first. Being aware of the early signs can help you identify the problem quickly."
Early signs include:
- difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say
- asking people to repeat themselves
- listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up high
- difficulty hearing the telephone or doorbell
- regularly feeling tired or stressed, due to having to concentrate closely while listening
They also said that ministers must publish an action plan on how the Government plans to address hearing loss.
"Since the 1990s there has been a steady rise in the number of people with hearing loss and this is only set to get worse - if we look into the future, there will be more older people and unfortunately many of them will experience hearing loss," said Baroness Greengross, chief executive of the ILC-UK.
"If we consider that while loud rock music and festivals may have contributed to hearing loss among the baby-boomers, iPod and other such devices may well pose an even greater danger to the next generation."
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The news comes as it emerged that one local health authority is considering whether or not to continue providing hearing aids for all patients on the NHS.
North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is running a consultation on whether or not to stop providing hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate age-related hearing loss.
Charity Action on Hearing Loss said the move would be "completely unacceptable".
Paul Breckell, chief executive of the charity, said: "For far too long hearing loss has lost out in the hierarchy of other health conditions, but we can no longer afford to ignore the individual, economic and societal cost of hearing loss.
"We also know, with ever increasing financial pressures, some clinical commissioning groups may be tempted to cut back on non-acute NHS services - North Staffordshire CCG is currently consulting on whether to remove free NHS hearing aids to those who have mild to moderate hearing loss. This is completely unacceptable."