HEAR­ING

Karen Finch, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The Hear­ing Care Cen­tre, high­lights how hear­ing loss can be a big fac­tor in lone­li­ness.

Let's Talk - - CONTENT - Karen Finch is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and lead au­di­ol­o­gist at The Hear­ing Care Cen­tre. The mul­ti­award win­ning, fam­ily-run com­pany has 26 cen­tres across Suf­folk and Nor­folk. For more in­for­ma­tion, please call 01473 230330 or visit www.hear­ing­care­cen­tre.co.uk

Hear­ing loss can lead to lone­li­ness

Hear­ing loss af­fects peo­ple in many ways and most of them are ob­vi­ous and well known. In­abil­ity to hear the TV, ra­dio or lis­ten to mu­sic with­out turn­ing up the speaker or hav­ing dif­fi­culty hear­ing what oth­ers say in noisy en­vi­ron­ments, are two fre­quently quoted ex­am­ples. And dif­fi­culty com­mu­ni­cat­ing with part­ners, friends and rel­a­tives can of­ten lead to un­pleas­ant ten­sions.

But imag­ine what it must be like for some­one who lives on their own who ex­pe­ri­ences hear­ing loss, with their abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate even with neigh­bours se­ri­ously re­duced. They can suf­fer from acute lone­li­ness, a phe­nom­e­non re­searchers say can be a se­ri­ous health is­sue.

This is a ma­jor prob­lem in Bri­tain, re­garded as the lone­li­ness cap­i­tal of Europe with its in­hab­i­tants less likely over­all to know their neigh­bours or have strong friend­ships than peo­ple any­where else in the EU.

The Lo­cal Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion which rep­re­sents town halls across the coun­try, even says lone­li­ness should be treated as a ‘ma­jor health is­sue’.

Re­cent re­search in the United States into the ef­fects of lone­li­ness and so­cial iso­la­tion af­fect­ing four mil­lion peo­ple re­vealed a 50% in­creased risk of early death com­pared with peo­ple who had the good so­cial con­nec­tions pos­si­ble for those with good hear­ing or cor­rected hear­ing loss. As­ton­ish­ingly this com­pared with only a 30% chance of early death be­fore the age of 70 caused by obe­sity.

A re­cent study by the Univer­sity of York found that lonely peo­ple are around 30% more likely to suf­fer a stroke or heart dis­ease, two of the lead­ing causes of death in Bri­tain.

Although the Amer­i­can re­search wasn’t specif­i­cally aimed at peo­ple with hear­ing loss, it is al­ready well doc­u­mented that un­treated hear­ing loss can cause so­cial iso­la­tion even among peo­ple with a close fam­ily and wide cir­cle of friends. This is of­ten be­cause the suf­ferer with­draws from so­cial con­tact be­cause they are un­able to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively.

The study’s lead au­thor ob­serves that for some peo­ple their work­place is the big­gest source of com­pan­ion­ship - lost when they re­tire - yet be­ing con­nected to oth­ers so­cially is a fun­da­men­tal hu­man need.

In­deed, some 17% of older peo­ple see friends, fam­ily or neigh­bours less than once a week and some 10% may go for a month at a time with­out see­ing loved ones. Mil­lions of older peo­ple see their TV as their main source of com­pany.

The Cam­paign to End Lone­li­ness of­fers a range of tips to help. They all as­sume that the per­son they are try­ing to help has good hear­ing and can com­mu­ni­cate well, so our top tip is to do some­thing about your hear­ing loss. And if you know some­one with hear­ing loss urge them to take ac­tion too.

The first stage is to make an ap­point­ment to have a hear­ing test, and dis­cuss the is­sues with an au­di­ol­o­gist.

It is worth re­mem­ber­ing that as peo­ple grow older their hear­ing de­te­ri­o­rates slowly but surely, even though they may not have no­ticed. A hear­ing test will de­tect any loss and even if hear­ing aids aren’t pre­scribed, the au­di­ol­o­gist will have a bench­mark record of your hear­ing abil­ity and will be able to mon­i­tor your hear­ing health in the fol­low­ing years.

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