Lending an ear to fight hearing loss
HEARING loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK, whether it is some degree of hearing impairment or deafness.
And even though advances in technology mean hearing aids can be easily disguised, experts say there is still a stigma associated with the condition.
Staff at the Audiology Department at the Royal Bolton Hospital are working hard to reverse this stigma and help thousands of patients across the borough every year.
Martin Anderson, head audiologist, said: “I think a lot of people associate hearing loss with just the elderly or the old ‘beige ear warmer’ hearing aids.
“But we treat people of all ages and abilities.
“There’s now a big push across the NHS to increase the number of people having aids fitted.
“What people need to know is that hearing loss is something that can be dealt with.
“For us, it’s about breaking the barriers and attitudes.
“I think some people have reservations about having their hearing tested but it’s about changing that perception. If you look at hearing devices now, they are so much more discreet than they used to be and can be hidden easily behind your hair or even your glasses arm.” Hearing loss can occur suddenly, but usually develops gradually. General signs of hearing loss can include, difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, asking people to repeat themselves or listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up high.
Yet the condition can have far more serious implications such as social isolation and communication problems.
Mr Anderson explained: “Aside from not being able to hear things properly, it can lead to all sorts of other problems such as social isolation.
“It can even lead to the breakdown of family relationships because people can get so frustrated with each other.
“It can affect people in their employment and their wellbeing.
It can also have a knock-on effect on their mental health. They can get anxious and depressed. It can be very, very isolating and I don’t think people realise that. The effects are also very gradual.
For example, you might not be able to hear the traffic or your morning alarm. It can be so gradual that people don’t notice the decline.”
Mr Anderson says the next step is to look at the links between hearing loss and dementia.
He added: “Quite often we look at dementia and not at the whole person. There is an inherent need for people with dementia to have hearing screening because it could really benefit them.
One of the main symptoms of dementia is loss of communication and hearing loss could be a contributing factor. We want to raise awareness of hearing loss more than anything.
The first stop for anyone who wants their hearing tested is their GP who can refer patients to an audiologist.
“Assessment for hearing aids includes looking at the patient’s history and associated problems. The Bolton department has an otoscope — a rotating chair which assesses balance by monitoring a patient’s eye movement as it spins.
“The department is one of just three audiology services across the UK NHS trusts to be awarded national accreditation — an award assessed on patient experience, facilities and resources.
“It’s a national standard in England to mark the competency of the service delivered to patients and we’re delighted to have it. It took a lot of work but it was worth it.”
Comments are closed on this article.