The annual Health Survey for England has revealed that there are almost 2 million people in the UK who need a hearing aid and are unaware of it. The results found that many people do not realise they have poor hearing, which is ‘worrying’ and a ‘cause for concern’ prompting hearing loss charity Action on Hearing Loss to call for people to seek help if they suspect that something is amiss with their hearing.
Search for answers
According to the report, almost 25% of men and a sixth of women over the age of 55 suffer from hearing loss but are unaware of it, although the reasons for this are currently unclear. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Jennifer Mindell from University College London, who wrote the survey’s section on hearing, explained that: “whether people are in denial or just unaware of what they can’t hear, we don’t know. People think it’s a normal part of ageing, and some don’t want a hearing aid as they feel there’s a stigma attached in a way that people don’t with glasses.”
There are concerns that those with undiagnosed hearing loss could suffer from mental health concerns as the result of being excluded socially. Gemma Twitchen from Action for Hearing Loss explained that: “reluctance to acknowledge hearing difficulties is far more common than we might think – on average it takes people 10 years to seek help for hearing loss. Early diagnosis is key, and hearing aids are vital in ensuring people can continue to communicate better with friends and family.” It is important therefore that people who suspect hearing loss take steps to get diagnosed as soon as possible.
Symptoms of hearing loss
Whilst some incidences of hearing loss will be sudden, such as a trauma, other forms of hearing loss can take time to develop. By familiarising yourself with symptoms, you can be aware of when to seek treatment from your doctor. Typical symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Not being able to hear conversations clearly, especially if there are multiple people engaged in the conversation
- Having to ask someone to repeat what they’ve just said, repeatedly
- Being unable to hear the telephone ringing or a knock at the door
- Needing the volume on the TV or radio to be louder than usual, or louder than others present
- Not being able to locate the direction of noises, particularly cars and other vehicles
These symptoms may not always be clear to yourself, and may be pointed out by someone else. Likewise, if you encounter someone who is showing these signs, you may want to advise them to visit their GP.
Getting help for hearing loss
If you suspect that you may be suffering from hearing loss, be sure to visit your doctor. Most cases of hearing loss can be improved with the use of a hearing aid.
Action for Hearing Loss offers a great online checking tool to help you test for hearing loss, whilst the NHS has further information on signs and symptoms, particularly in instances of hearing loss in children and infants. Hearing loss is common, especially as we get older, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed for needing a hearing aid. Leaving a condition undiagnosed can cause it to get worse, so make sure you discuss any suspected hearing loss with your doctor as soon as possible.