Location: Northern Ireland
Access to hearing loss surgery is to improve in Wales, with waiting times for cochlear implant fittings set to decrease significantly over the coming months.
The Welsh government has revealed that it is slashing the current target from referral to operation in half, from 52 weeks to 26 weeks, which it wants health and audiology services to achieve within the next three years.
This means that people experiencing hearing loss could find themselves having had a cochlear implant fitted just six months after speaking to their GP about their problem, rather than having to wait for 12 months as is often currently the case.
For patients with more complex needs, the new target from referral to treatment is going to be set at 36 weeks, allowing for extra time if needed. This therefore further demonstrates the Welsh government's commitment to improving access to vital hearing loss surgery for the thousands of people across the country who could benefit from it.
Statistics show that there are currently 13,480 people living in Wales who are registered as having a hearing impairment, with 83 per cent of these classed as hard-of-hearing rather than completely deaf.
Of these individuals, 65 received cochlear implant surgery in 2015-16. However, by cutting waiting times for surgery and ensuring more people can be treated within a shorter space of time, thousands more deaf and hard-of-hearing patients could be set to benefit from the life-changing surgery in the future.
Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething commented: "We want to ensure that people who need cochlear implants are able to have surgery as soon as possible. For many people, deafness can have a significant impact on quality of life, affecting employment, recreation and relationships.
"Restoring people's hearing with cochlear implants as soon as possible will help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to lead more normal lives again."
Written by James Puckle
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