People living with hearing loss have been advised not to hesitate in seeking professional help as delayed treatment may lead to lasting communication problems.
As its reopening programme continues after lockdown, hearing care specialists at The Hearing Care Centre are warning that social isolation is causing some people to miss out on vital help.
Although The Hearing Care Centre has now been safely offering one-to-one appointments since the beginning of June, the entire hearing ecosystem, including NHS services as well as independent hearing care professionals, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with most patients being unable to access normal levels of hearing care and possibly storing up future problems.
Managing Director Karen Finch said: “The most satisfying part of being able to re-open for care is knowing that we offer a valuable and much needed service. The relief for patients after receiving our help and treatment has been overwhelming and emotional, especially those presenting with prolonged acute pain from impacted wax and infection.”
“Importantly though,” Karen went on to say, “delaying necessary treatment may lead to a number of other health risks. Recent studies have linked untreated hearing loss in middle age with an increased risk of cognitive decline and early onset dementia; with one claiming a new diagnosis in people aged 45 to 65 more than doubled their chances of developing the condition. This rises to three times if the hearing loss is considered to be ‘moderate’, and five times as great if it is severe.
It’s not clear why untreated diminished hearing has such a strong link to dementia, however experts suggest it could be connected to communication, cognitive ability and isolation. However, the link between not treating hearing loss and early onset dementia is there, and wearing hearing aids could help with slowing dementia rates.
Hearing loss has always been a public health issue. Isolation brought on by the UK lockdown has highlighted the importance of good hearing. A more concentrated situation, in which, even having a mild hearing loss, the feelings of isolation and being cut off from loved ones is even more pronounced, potentially impacting on mental health.
In many cases, especially among the elderly, communication and connecting with loved ones or friends is currently happening over the phone, via video calls, taking place at a distance of two metres or behind a face mask. None of these elements are conducive to easy communication, especially to someone with a hearing loss.
Even without lockdown, often people will have a hearing loss but do nothing about it, believing it to be something that has to be lived with or an inevitable burden of ageing.”
Karen concluded: “Early diagnosis of reduced hearing, preventative action such as wearing ear protection in noisy settings and making use of digital, discreet but effective hearing aids could help. The NHS includes hearing loss among the risk factors for dementia. Keeping all cognitive function as sharp as you can for as long as you can is important, because if you’re not hearing well, then basic communication is affected. That brings its own knock-on effects in terms of one’s ability to function.”
“We are currently experiencing the perfect storm of an ageing population who quite rightly wish to maintain their lifestyles and in turn maintain their communication skills, at the highest level whilst living in an increasing noisy world – this storm cannot be ignored but can be weathered by seeking the right help as early as possible. We are saying if you have discovered during lockdown you need support with your hearing, please don’t let hearing loss prolong your isolation”
The Hearing Care Centre is currently offering audiology and ear wax removal by appointment at fifteen centres across Suffolk and Norfolk with plans for more centres in the coming weeks. Information can be found at: www.hearingcarecentre.co.uk.