Hearing loss is increasingly affecting the population worldwide. In the UK, one in six is suffering from hearing loss. Unfortunately, hearing impaired people rarely consult their GP. Communication is a major issue for people with hearing loss. Statistics are worrisome and show that some of the affected by their hearing difficulties still encounter fear and doubt when looking for a solution.
- 22% of hard of hearing people leave their appointment with a doctor lacking knowledge about their condition.
- 25% schedule an additional appointment because they did not understand their diagnosis.
- 12% avoid going to a doctor because they experience problems with communication.
For many reasons, unmanaged hearing loss results in communication difficulties. This makes it challenging for people to interact not only with their GP but also with their friends and relatives. This can lead to depression and social isolation. Additionally, hearing loss has an impact on people trying to get treatment for their condition. The ability of hearing impaired people to understand and access services such as healthcare is reduced and can lead to further health problems. Therefore, hearing issues should be addressed in a timely manner.
Diagnosing and managing conditions such as hearing loss has wider benefits, as it is easier and less expensive when people are able to communicate with specialists and have access to various health services at an early stage. Recent research suggests that there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia. Not only are the hard of hearing at a high risk of experiencing social isolation, they are also more likely to develop dementia. For those with mild to moderate hearing loss the possibility to develop the condition is twice as high as for those with normal hearing. The risk increases five times for those with severe hearing loss.
While there are favourable and accessible audiometry tests broadly available along with an established patient pathway such as the provision of free hearing aids, training and support; many people delay seeking assistance for their hearing loss. Hearing screening and accompanying management of hearing loss can have a substantial effect on, or reduce the risk and impact of, the disease. That is why hearing screening at an earlier age is essential. The sooner patients take advantage of intervention such as wearing hearing aids, the bigger their chances will be to adapt to their new lifestyle and avoid isolation.
For many hearing impaired people the ultimate help is the provision of hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify surrounding sounds and enhance the ability to communicate. They can assist in leading a normal life. However, many people show unwillingness to wear them because of the stigma related to the devices. GPs can provide their patients with information about the need to adapt to wearing a hearing aid. When wearing hearing aids for the first time, the sound may seem much louder until the nerve cells re-adapt and forgotten sounds become re-learned and re-programmed. Currently the most commonly prescribed hearing aid is a Behind-The-Ear device, although discreet In-The-Ear hearing aids are used nationwide.