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There is no official government body responsible for keeping a record of how many hard of hearing people are in the UK; however in 2005, the RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People) that has since changed its name to ‘Action on Hearing Loss’ conducted a survey that involved over 20,000 respondents. Figures revealed that over 9 million people within the UK are thought to have some degree of hearing loss, with the vast majority aged 65 and over. The survey also concluded that the most common reasons for the hearing loss were age-related deterioration and prolonged exposure to noise.
Deterioration in hearing ability can take place over many years, with changes starting as early as in one’s 40s. If you experience signs of hearing loss or you care for someone and notice the signs, it is important to know that age related hearing loss can be managed and more can be done than to ‘just live with it’.
Our ability to hear is achieved by the ear, nervous system and brain working together to firstly capture and transmit sound and to extract information so that it is translated into meaningful signals in the brain. When one or more of these elements is adversely affected our ability to hear may be at risk. In the case of age-related hearing loss, damage or deterioration often occurs within the inner ear. Thousands of tiny hair-cells are contained within the cochlea of the inner ear, and their function can deteriorate in line with the natural aging processes of the body.
Unfortunately hair-cells are not replaced and cannot re-grow, meaning any resultant hearing loss is permanent; this is why age-related hearing loss can be managed rather than cured.
While the aging process is something that must ultimately be accepted, it is regrettable that age-related hearing loss should ever be accepted as ‘one of the things that one can do nothing about’. The long term effects of hearing loss can lead to other issues including social exclusion and reduced interaction with others, feelings of anxiety, worry or even depression; all contributing to diminished quality of life.
There is help at hand, and first is it important to establish the extent of the hearing loss.
Hearing tests are non-intrusive procedures that are available through the NHS, via a referral from your GP or by attending a local high street hearing centre directly. Once the reason for and degree of hearing loss is established, you will be offered a number of options. These are meant to help manage the hearing loss, but are not designed to cure it. The most popular option is wearing a hearing aid and in fact 1.4 million hard of hearing across the UK have chosen this option. Hearing aids are tiny electronic devices that use battery power to amplify external sounds. Hearing aids are free from the NHS (limited range and waiting list may apply) or they can be bought privately. The second popular group, one that is only available privately are assistive listening devices. These are daily living aids such as phones and alarms that have been designed with extra amplification in mind.
Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology of Hearing Direct, Hampshire based company offering ALDs (Assistive Listening Devices) from deaf alarm clock to hard of hearing telephones.
Find out more about Live-in Care and Nursing for the hard of hearing from Consultus
News Date: October 2011