Fact Sheet on Hearing Loss
(Reprinted from the Office of Hearing Services)
Living with Hearing Loss
Hearing and quality of life are closely linked. Poor hearing affects both the person with the loss and those they communicate with. A comprehensive study conducted in the USA on the effects of untreated hearing loss on adults as well as their families found that hearing loss impacts on our social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
People with hearing impairment can experience:
- Loss of confidence
- Irritability and anger
- Feeling of being ignored
- Dependence on others
- Withdrawal, isolation and loneliness
- Exclusion from family and social activities
Other people, such as family members and close friends, may find themselves:
- Talking for the other person
- Continually having to explain or interpret
- Sacrificing some activities (eg. theatre, parties)
- Making assumptions about what hard of hearing person thinks or needs
- Embarrassed in company
These effects mean hearing loss can place very real strains on relationships.
Hearing aids can make a big difference
Because impaired hearing results in a distorted or incomplete communication, this can lead to greater isolation and withdrawal and the individual’s social life becomes restricted. The use of hearing aids resulted in improvements in many quality-of life areas, in particular:
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Improved health
- Enhanced social activity
- Reduction in discrimination against the person with the hearing loss
- Reduction in anger and frustration
- Greater earning power (especially the more severe hearing losses)
- A lower incidence of depression.
Hearing Loss is a widespread disability amongst older people
73 percent of Australians aged over 70 have a mild to severe hearing loss. This percentage rises as age increases. As many as 85% of people in ‘nursing homes’ are typically hearing impaired.
A mild to moderate hearing loss can interfere with easy and assured conversation – especially in background noise, such as in community areas of aged care facilities.
It is believed that one in three older people who need hearing aids have them and that only about a quarter of those who need an aid use one.
Many older people who would benefit from hearing aids wait 6 to 10 years before seeking them. People need motivation to seek and then persevere in the use of aids. Gentle encouragement by carers can help . Also the willingness of carers to assist hearing impaired people in managing their hearing aids is critical for older people who quite commonly have reduced finger and arm dexterity or reduced vision.
If a person is reluctant to get hearing aids, or is unlikely to persevere with them, they may be encouraged to use an ‘assistive listening device’ if only to watch TV, listen to the radio or music and to use a suitable phone to keep in touch with family and friends.
Hearing impairment, if not attended to, can lead to serious consequences. Frustration and embarrassment arising from hearing difficulties can lead to social withdrawal and thus to isolation and loneliness. This can worsen depression and dementia. Recent research also suggests a physiological link between untreated hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease in older people. Ability to enjoy TV, radio, music etc may provide some relief.
Hearing impairment is a ‘hidden’ disability. Hearing impairment is invisible although there are behavioural indicators. People will often try to hide hearing impairment due to a perceived stigma attaching to it. Hearing loss is not well understood in the general community.
Source: Office of Hearing Services, and hearingawarenessweek.org.au