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Meeting ear and hearing care needs



This section resources to help meet ear and hearing care needs in Scotland.

If you would like to access any additional support and guidance please email us at [email protected].

Hearing loss in your area

Today more than 990,000 adults in Scotland have a hearing loss. Use the hearing map below to get an overview of hearing needs in your region.



Primary care audiology - accessible ear and hearing care for all

We are committed to working with sector partners, health boards, NHS Scotland and government to establish audiology as the fifth NHS primary care service in Scotland. 

Primary care audiology will benefit patients and the NHS.


Allowing NHS patients to self-refer to primary care audiology will also reduce pressure on GPs and hospital colleagues - a win for patients, GPs and hospitals. 


Learn more about primary care audiology - accessible ear and hearing care for all

Commissioning high quality, cost-effective and sustainable services

Hearing loss affects over 990,000 people in Scotland. It is a major and growing public health challenge and the 5th leading cause of years lived with disability in Scotland [1]. 

In Scotland 95% of people with hearing loss are aged 40 and over, this is because age-related hearing loss is the main cause of hearing loss [2]. The prevalence of hearing loss therefore varies between 19% and 26% across Health Boards, largely driven by the number of adults aged 50 and over in each region.

Unsupported adult hearing loss has a major impact on an individual's ability to communicate, including with friends and family, and increases the risk of depression, loneliness and social isolation, cognitive decline, early exit from the workforce and reduced quality of life [3-7].

In 2016 the National Clinical Strategy for Scotland (NCSS) recognised that adult hearing loss in older age will further increase disability [8].

Hearing support has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce these risks [9].

People in Scotland have the option of accessing NHS hearing care or private hearing care. It is estimated that 24% of patients choose private hearing care and 76% choose NHS hearing care.

NHS funded audiology is provided across 65 predominately hospital-based sites [10]. Private hearing care is provided from approximately 165 primary care locations and via domiciliary care across Scotland [11].

Things you can consider when planning local services:

  • Hearing loss is a long-term condition. Do people have timely access to ongoing support and advice for their hearing problems?
  • The average hearing aid user is aged 70 and over. Are services easily accessible and close to home?
  • There is significant unmet hearing need in Scotland. Is there a clear plan of action to tackle local unmet hearing needs as part of a healthy ageing or other public health initiative?

At NCHA Scotland we can help you access the evidence and support you need to design hearing care locally, so that you meet needs in a sustainable way. If you would like more information and support please contact us at [email protected].

Evidence and key documents

This section can be read alongside other resources for policymakers and commissioners on our website. You might find the following resources helpful in that they provide independent evidence that

  • Hearing loss is a major and growing health challenge
  • Early diagnosis and management of hearing loss is cost-effective
  • Hearing aids are cost-effective
  • Supporting people with tinnitus can improve health and wellbeing


Other key documents

You can also contact NCHA Scotland here: 0131 385 8885, 9-10 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2AF 


Originally published: 2015

Reviewed: February 2024

Next review date: February 2025

Info: This guide was updated as part of a website upgrade in 2021. New resources and links added in 2024. 

References and notes

[1] Vos, T et al (2015), Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet

[2] Sources: Prevalence (%) of hearing impairment (≥ 25 decibels) in Scotland, based on level of hearing loss in the better ear in each age group: Data Sources: Davis, A. 1989. The Prevalence of Hearing Impairment and reported Hearing Disability among Adults in Great Britain. International Journal of Epidemiology, 18(4), pp. 911-917; Davis, A. 1995. Hearing in Adults. London: Whurr, calculated for each group using local population

[3] Acar, B. et al. 2011. Effects of hearing aids on cognitive functions and depressive signs in elderly people. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 52(3), pp. 250-252.

[4] Hidalgo, J. L. et al. 2009. Functional status of elderly people with hearing loss. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 49(1), pp. 88-92

[5] Lin, F. R. et al. 2011. Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68(2), pp. 214-220

[6] Helvik, A. 2012. Hearing loss and risk of early retirement. The Hunt study. European Journal of Public Health, 23(4), pp. 617-622

[7] Appollonio, I. et al. 1996. Effects of Sensory Aids on the Quality of Life and Mortality of Elderly People: A Multivariate Analysis. Age and Aging, 25(2), pp. 89-96.

[8] Scottish Government, 2016. A National Clinical Strategy for Scotland. p.22

[9] Chisolm, T. et al. 2007. A Systematic Review of Health-Related Quality of Life and Hearing Aids: Final Report of the American Academy of Audiology Task Force on the Health-Related Quality of Life Benefits of Amplification in Adults. Journal of the American Audiology, 18(2), pp. 151-183; Davis, A. et al., 2007. Acceptability, benefit and costs of early screening for hearing disability: a study of potential screening tests and models. Health technology assessment, 11(42) pp. 75-78; Acar, B. et al. 2011. Effects of hearing aids on cognitive functions and depressive signs in elderly people. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 52(3), pp. 250-252.

[10] Based on FoI responses from 14 Health Boards and an online review of service locations

[11] Based on an online search of private hearing care providers. 156 locations identified, of which 51 also provide other primary care services including optometry, pharmacy and GP.

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