PATIENTS have hit out at plans to stop funding hearing aids for deaf people.
North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is considering cutting funding for aids for those with mild to moderate hearing loss to save £1.2 million.
Now volunteers and members of the Action on Hearing Loss charity is demanding the CCG reconsiders the proposal because it could leave many people feeling isolated and could cause other serious health problems such as dementia.
Sue Harper, community support officer for the charity that holds a monthly drop in at Trinity Church, Leek, which last week celebrated its one year anniversary, spoke out against the plans.
She said: "We hold a drop-in for anybody who has a hearing loss in the Leek area. We give them advice and support, free batteries and change the tubing.
"What they health service is considering is terrible and they say it's because not as many people are using hearing aids. The thing with aids is that people have to get used to them and be educated on how to use them which is what we do at the drop in. Research has shown that people with hearing loss can become socially isolated and stop mixing with other people. If the NHS don't provide the intervention of a hearing aid then this could lead to more dementia cases which would be more of a burden on the health service." A study published in 2011, issue of the Archives of Neurology, suggests that untreated hearing loss carries a greater risk.
It stated that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia, and their risk increases as hearing loss becomes more severe.
At the age 50, 42 per cent of people suffer from hearing loss and at 70, 72 per cent of people suffer.
Dorothy Osborne who has been using a hearing aid for the past 20 years.
The 66-year-old who lives on Prince Street, Leek, said: "If the proposal goes ahead a lot of people won't be able to access hearing aids without having the funds. There will be an uproar.
"There is a lot of awareness about old people from becoming socially isolated yet if people cannot afford to buy hearing aids then more and more people will be stuck at home because they cannot have conversations or hear other people.
"Maybe the people who have made this decision should be made to walk around with ear plugs in for a few days."
Private sets of hearing aids cost around £3,000 and last around three years. Users have to have the tubes changed every four to six months and the batteries changed from seven to 10 days.
Jonathan Chaddock, aged 92, of Plough Bank, Wetley Rocks, has been using a hearing aid for 10 months. He said: "I think it's shocking that people might have to pay for them. So many people don't have that kind of money and they are just going to be abandoned by the NHS."