Hearing Loss and Social Isolation

A recent report has combined a wide body of medical research from a range of different sources, with the objective of understanding trends to help combat the epidemic of dementia throughout the world. One key point from the study is that early intervention and prevention is the best course of action. This said, nine proposed risk-factors that could increase the likelihood of dementia in later life were outlined, with hearing loss included as one factor as it’s projected that “hearing loss is responsible for 9% of dementia cases”.

“In the United Kingdom, around 29% of adults aged 55 to 74 years have a hearing impairment and could benefit from a hearing aid (Davis et al. 2007). However, only 14% of United Kingdom adults aged 55 to 74 years with a hearing impairment use a hearing aid (Davis et al. 2007).”1 It’s an alarming statistic to think that 86% of people in the UK could be benefiting from better hearing and reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline, by wearing a hearing aid.

Some of the early indications that you could be experiencing hearing loss are missing the speech of children or female voices due to the high pitch, turning up the car radio volume and consistently asking people to repeat themselves, especially in environments with high levels of background noise. Most of these are social settings and without being able to hear conversations in restaurants or stories about the family’s day over the dinner table, people can refrain from engaging in these types of situation and stop meeting friends in a bar for a catch-up. This leads to an individual slowly withdrawing from and eventually completely removing themselves from social situations - all because they find it difficult to hear or follow conversations.

Early intervention is the key to ensuring people remain engaged and socially active, which will mean a shift in the current mind-set as “the average age of those who consult their general practitioner about their hearing difficulties for the first time is 75 years old (Davis et al. 2007)”1. The approach to hearing loss should be more proactive, rather than reactive, which means annul hearing assessments from a younger age, similar to the way you visit the dentist bi-annually even if you don’t have toothache. People who live alone also need encouragement as they “may be less aware of their hearing difficulties (Kochkin 2000) and may not have the social support to encourage them to seek help for their hearing (Brooks 1989; Kochkin 2007) (Kochkin 2000).” because they might already have withdrawn from activities due to lack of hearing and feeling as though they can’t contribute to conversations with friends and loved ones. In this case, the sooner the hearing loss is rectified, the sooner the individual can get back into the social situations they love and enjoy.

If any of the above sounds familiar, please call 0800 042 0000 or click here, as we would be delighted to find you a local hearing healthcare specialist that can help. Alternatively, you can take an online hearing test which will provide results in two minutes and make you aware of the next steps if you do have hearing loss.

1 Davis, A., Smith, P., Ferguson, M., et al. (2007). Acceptability, benefit and costs of early screening for hearing disability: A study of potential screening tests and models. Health Technol Assess, 11, 1–294.

2 Kochkin, S. (2007). MarkeTrak VII: Obstacles to adult non‐user adoption of hearing aids. Hear J, 60, 24–51.

3 Erber, N. P., Lamb, N. L., Lind, C. (1996). Factors that affect the use of hearing aids by older people: A new perspective. Am J Audiol, 5, 11–18.

By Starkey Hearing Technologies blog