Make Hearing Loss Diagnosis A Top Priority
Education and Advocacy While hearing loss can occur at any age, acquired hearing loss is more likely as we age and is experienced in two thirds of people by their 70s.
Hearing loss in aging adults is a top priority of the Ontario Hearing Health-care Initiative lead by the Canadian Hearing Society. While hearing loss can occur at any age, it is well known that acquired hearing loss is more likely as we age and is experienced in two thirds of people by their 70s. People in their 50s and 60s may find it difficult to hear conversation in noisy restaurants, feel that people seem to be mumbling, and often turn up the volume on the TV.
"As hearing loss deepens, this can lead to social isolation and can cause loneliness, anxiety, relationship breakdown and even depression."
As hearing loss deepens, this can lead to social isolation and can cause loneliness, anxiety, relationship breakdown and even depression. The good news is that hearing aids, FM amplification systems, counselling programs and some non-technical solutions can help people and their families.
Struggling without sound
Communication is needed everywhere in our lives. Sometimes an older person who has lost the ability to hear and has not learned other ways to communicate effectively “appears” to be disconnected, disinterested or worse, mentally incompetent. Research shows a significant relationship between preventable medical undesired effects and patients who had communication challenges (including hearing loss).
In clinics, hospitals, at home and in long term care residences, it is important to ensure that hearing aids are working and overall hearing healthcare needs (e.g. checking for ear wax) are managed. Face the person you are speaking with and when needed, use hand-held amplification systems to improve the communication. TV-to-headset systems can help to reduce isolation and loneliness for those without hearing aids. Hearing should be checked before a patient enters a health education program.
Recognizing increased risks
There is a need to screen for hearing loss, which has a higher prevalence in those who have diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. Considering that social isolation and sensory loss are reported as contributors to admission to long term care facilities, the management of hearing loss is an important preventive measure.
It would be beneficial if healthcare system policies would integrate screening and management of hearing loss into standard programs such as family practice annual check ups and chronic disease management and prevention for aging adults.