The theme of this year’s World Hearing Day (Tues, 3 March) is Don’t let hearing loss limit you!
Promoted by the World Health Organisation, the message is that timely and effective interventions will ensure people with hearing loss can achieve their full potential.
Research by Hidden Hearing in Ireland, however, shows that Irish people are failing to acknowledge and treat hearing loss in large numbers.
Carried out among people already experiencing hearing issues, the research was part of a larger global survey. It showed significant delays in the time taken by people to have their hearing tested, and to seek treatment, combined with reluctance to use a hearing aid when needed.
Around 15% of the population suffer some degree of hearing loss, with men more likely to than women. 35% of people aged over 64 have a significant hearing loss and, in the over 75s, 50% will have age-related hearing loss.
Ignoring hearing loss has implications for our health and safety, and that of others, according to audiologist Dolores Madden, who is Marketing Director with Hidden Hearing.
“Not being able to hear clearly will put people in dangerous situations. They may not hear an oncoming car or work equipment starting up, or they can miss a warning call”.
Medical research shows that not remedying hearing loss has knock-on effects like isolation and depression, and is associated with heart problems, stroke, diabetes and dementia.
Untreated hearing-loss was also shown to create stress for the individuals’ surveyed. 55% admitted to being angry or frustrated some or most of the time, and 55% reported feeling socially isolated. 52% were anxious and 34% reported feeling unsafe because of poor hearing.
Questioned on the reasons for delaying treatment, 29% in Ireland said they didn’t realise their hearing was deteriorating. A further 28% thought hearing loss was a fact of ageing and couldn’t be helped.
26% said they were embarrassed to report their hearing loss, and 20% admitted being put off by the prospect of wearing a hearing aid, higher than the global average of 15%. Treatment affordability was an issue for 17% of respondents in Ireland.
The Global Hearing Loss Survey* was carried out among adults aged 18 and over, already with hearing-loss, in ten countries; Ireland, Portugal, France, Spain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia.