Tuesday 3rd March is the World Health Organisation’s World Hearing Day. The theme for 2020 is “Hearing for life: don’t let hearing loss limit you”. Right at Home offers the following tips on showing kindness towards a condition affecting 1 in 6 adults.
With one in six adults living with some level of hearing impairment, the likelihood of coming into contact with someone with hearing loss is high. However, there are still many more people living with unidentified hearing loss. At every stage of life, good hearing enables us to connect with the people we’re engaging with and situations we’re involved in: socially, professionally and privately.
There may be occasions when you’re in a loud venue and can’t hear the conversation because the band are so loud, for example. Imagine living in a perpetual state of not fully hearing a conversation properly. The isolation, frustration and disconnection this can lead to. Even misunderstanding what someone said because you didn’t catch their whole sentence, could leave you feeling upset or angry. How can we be kinder to both people we love and strangers, who may be living in a world without adequate sound?
At Right at Home, we believe no-one should experience limitations in their daily life. And as people who are passionate about care in our communities, we want to help people understand what those living with hearing loss are dealing with. So, this World Hearing Day, here’s some important information around hearing health.
According to the Action on Hearing Loss charity, people wait an average 10 years before seeking help for their hearing loss. As their hearing deteriorates, they reach a point where they know they can’t ignore it any longer. As one audiologist says, “Studies show that by the time people seek treatment, their ability to adapt and benefit from treatment is often greatly reduced.”
The most common reasons given for avoiding seeking medical advice for their hearing loss, include:
- Lack of awareness about hearing impairment
- Fear of the stigma in society
Is there really stigma around hearing loss, in the UK? According to Action on Hearing Loss, 70% of people surveyed for their ‘Working for Change, 2018’ report, said their hearing loss sometimes prevented them from fulfilling their potential at work. 68% said they sometimes felt isolated at work because of their hearing loss and 42% took early retirement because of the impact of their hearing loss and struggles with communication at work.
So, if you are concerned about someone’s hearing, or even about your own, don’t wait to seek medical advice. Timely intervention can help the condition be managed better than anticipated so you, or your loved one, can continue to enjoy life every day. The cause of it may be as simple as earwax build up, which is easily treatable.
What symptoms should you listen out for?
According to the NHS website, common indicators of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places.
- Asking people to repeat themselves.
- Listening to music or watching television, loudly.
- Needing to concentrate hard to hear what other people are saying, which can be tiring
What causes hearing loss?
Whilst most hearing loss is associated with being part of the ageing process (affecting 71% of people over 70), hearing loss also affects around 50,000 children, and 4.4 million working age adults, including 42% of people over 50. Add to this, the six million – or 1 in 10 – adults suffering from tinnitus, which also impacts on their ability to hear fully.
Other causes of hearing impairment, according to the NHS, are:
- Sudden hearing loss in one ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière’s disease.
- Sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing.
- Gradual hearing loss in one ear may be due to something inside the ear, such as fluid (glue ear), a bony growth (otosclerosis) or a build-up of skin cells (cholesteatoma).
- Gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by ageing or exposure to loud noises over many years.
Using the available support to help you live well
With technology advancement improving the quality of life for people who struggle to hear, it may be a surprise to learn only around 40% of the 2 million people who need to use a hearing aid, actively use it. One of the main reasons for this is as a result of what other people think or say. This is where we, as a society, can become kinder to those who need to use a device to help them engage with the world around them.
Other ways we can be more supportive and considerate to those living with hearing loss – especially if it’s a new diagnosis they are learning to come to terms with – include:
- Think about your positioning when speaking. Try talking face-to-face, rather than from behind or with your back to someone.
- Think about how you speak. To avoid misunderstandings, speak clearly. This doesn’t mean speaking loudly or slowly.
- Think about the setting. If you are in a restaurant, consider the background noise levels and what impact this might have on your conversation. If you’re at home, turn down the TV or radio, in order to be able to clearly converse.
- Think about how to attract their attention. You don’t want to scare someone if they are unaware you’re in the room. Approach them from the side, or come into view, and gently place a hand on their shoulder to let them know you want to speak.
- Think about how you would feel. Our communication is predominantly non-verbal. Engaging with someone from a place of empathy helps to avoid making the person living with hearing loss feel disconnected from you.
By showing kindness and consideration when speaking with others, we can help reduce the anxieties people may feel about their deteriorating or limited hearing.
For more information on hearing loss, please visit the NHS website.
 Action on Hearing Loss, Impact Report 18/19