Hearing Loss Charity Develops Vital New Project
Hearing loss is a devastating condition which is thought to impact up to 11 million people in the UK. With this amounting to approximately one in every six people, there is no doubt that reduced or impaired hearing is a serious condition meriting significant research and attention. However, hearing loss has rarely been a priority when compared with other debilitating conditions such as dementia, and as such there are few dedicated research projects highlighting the limiting aspects of the condition and promoting awareness and support for those with impairments.
That is all set to change, however. A recent announcement by Action on Hearing, the UK charity dedicated to supporting individuals with impairment, has launched a three-year project designed to improve management of the condition. The project has been developed in order to focus particularly on the impact of hearing impairment and deafness for older people, recognising the impact it can have on quality of life if not managed adequately.
Boosting Hearing in Older People
The project, named ‘Hear to Care’, is specifically targeting approaches to hearing loss in residential and mainstream long-term care environments, encompassing nursing and residential care homes. The initiative will raise awareness of the increasing need for proactive screening programmes, in addition to enhancing access to devices and aids which can mitigate some of the negative effects of hearing loss.
Tackling Lack of Awareness of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss in older people can result from a number of factors. Known as ‘presbycusis’, age-related cochlear damage can be attributable to either environmental causes, genetic factors or a combination of both. It can be triggered through prolonged exposure to loud noise, certain drugs which have a toxic effect on the cochlea itself or those substances which may damage the nerves in the ear. Infectious diseases and genetic factors such as a hereditary predisposition also play a part in determining the future hearing of a person as they grow older. With eleven million sufferers across the UK, impaired hearing or total hearing loss constitutes a significant public health issue which warrants a great deal more attention, research and awareness in both private care homes and nursing homes.
According to research, almost seven million people could benefit from being introduced to hearing aids to restore hearing ability. This figure pertains to those individuals who have lost between 35 and 70 decibels of sound recognition in one or both ears, which would be greatly improved through standard hearing aids available through the NHS today. However, a lack of awareness, accessibility of screening and public knowledge may mean that many sufferers go undiagnosed and unable to benefit from technologies which could either reverse or greatly reduce the problem.
This is particularly problematic for older residents in care settings, who may already feel isolated and confused when in a potentially unfamiliar environment. By raising awareness and accessibility, the ‘Hear to Care’ project will reduce social isolation in private care homes and nursing homes, improve health outcomes and maximise public awareness of this potentially debilitating condition nationally.