Addressing hearing loss: don’t suffer in silenceAddressing hearing loss: don’t suffer in silence
One of the most notable ways we’re reminded of the imminent arrival of Christmas is when we hear Christmas music. From songs and carols on the radio, to festive TV adverts and the tinny music blaring out from shops, it’s either something you celebrate hearing or complain about. But imagine if you couldn’t do either.
There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, which is around one in six individuals, and by 2035 it’s estimated that there will be around 15.6 million people, or one in five of us. Amongst older people, 71 percent of over 70-year-olds have some kind of hearing loss, including many of the people our live-in carers support. Age-related damage to the cochlea, a hollow, spiral-shaped bone found in the inner ear, is the single biggest cause of losing hearing with the damage usually due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
The consequences of hearing loss
It’s tempting to think of hearing loss as a natural part of ageing, but while some people may joke about an elderly relative becoming ‘hard of hearing’, hearing loss is no laughing matter. Not only will a person with hearing loss miss key information that affects everything from their ability to socially interact to their enjoyment of listening to the radio, it might potentially lead them into danger if they miss alarms going off or can’t hear oncoming traffic.
Hearing loss can affect a person’s mental health too, with research showing that living with hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression, and increases the chances of a person experiencing anxiety and other mental health problems.
Hearing loss and dementia
Perhaps most alarmingly of all, however, is the fact that hearing loss increases the risk of developing dementia. Indeed, The Lancet reported in 2017 that hearing loss was the biggest modifiable dementia risk factor for people in midlife, and Action on Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Research UK are now planning a joint project to find out more.
There is some good news though; evidence suggests that wearing hearing aids reduces the risk of developing dementia, and for a person already living with dementia, like Wendy Mitchell, hearing aids have been a game changer. Wendy was diagnosed with hyperacusis earlier this year, which is noise sensitivity not hearing loss. She now wears hearing aids and said in her blog:
“One tiny aid that could change my world……fingers crossed….might not be for everyone but for me at the moment it’s WOW.”
We know from our experiences of the Virtual Dementia Tour earlier this year that the impact on a person’s senses from dementia can be profound, and so finding ways to support a person to address and alleviate a hearing problem is something that all of our live-in carers look to do.
I think my loved one has a hearing problem – what do I do?
One of the best ways to broach the topic of hearing loss is to offer to undertake a simple hearing test, like the one provided by Action on Hearing Loss alongside the person you believe may have hearing loss. Should the results show a reduction in hearing, try to support the person to see their GP to get a referral for a more comprehensive NHS hearing test.
Hearing aids are available free on the NHS in most areas. If the person you are supporting isn’t keen on wearing their hearing aids, try to find out why. The aids may simply need adjusting, or it may be that the person might benefit from investing in a different type of aid if they are able to do that. Some high street opticians offer hearing tests and aids, and some companies provide home visits.
As a starting point, look at this guide from Which?. It covers hearing tests, aids and prices, and includes a comparison between what the NHS offer and what is available privately.
If you would like to find out more or access our services, please visit www.promedica24.co.uk to use our online chat service. You can also get in touch with our team on 0800 086 8686 or by sending an email to email@example.com. If you’d like to assess your care and support needs rapidly online, we have a tool available for you to do this.
We can provide live-in care services across the whole of England and we would also encourage you to visit our testimonials page to read what our clients and their families have said about our services