Hearing tests for over-55s19th November 2007
An NHS trial of 35,000 people aged over-55 could herald the start of a national screening programme to detect hearing difficulties.
The trial of people aged from 55-74 showed that regular hearing examinations gave "substantial benefits."
The study showed that a quick test using varying degrees of sound was able to identify people who required a hearing aid.
3% of people in the study had hearing aids, but 12% of people - over one in 10 - had moderate or severe hearing difficulties.
Professor Adrian Davis, the head of the research, and director of the Medical Research Council Hearing and Communication Group, said: "Once we have the capacity, a screening programme is the next step."
"For the first time we have come up with a really clear-cut picture that screening is incredibly effective and cost effective."
He said a programme could be in place within five years but added that 18-week waiting times needed to be reached by the close of next year.
He added that the diagnosis of hearing problems was crucial for a good standard of life and said that it usually took people around 10-15 years before they went to see their GP about the issue.
The study said that a national programme, performed by GPs, would cost the health service £13 per person.
Professor Davis said the simple hearing test would meet "the criteria for a screening programme really well."
The Department of Health said it would examine the information presented in the study.
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