The Irish Times – Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The loss of one’s ability to hear what friends and family are saying can be embarrassing, but there is help available, writes EITHNE DONNELLAN Health Correspondent
ONE IN THREE of those who suffer from hearing loss say it is an embarrassing problem that causes them to shy away from talking on the telephone and from socialising, according to the findings of a survey published yesterday to mark Hearing Awareness Week.
Before they got help, more than half of those with hearing difficulties used to pretend to hear what people were saying to them rather than let others know they were hard of hearing, according to the survey. More than a quarter waited in excess of five years to seek assistance.
The survey was conducted between December and February among 750 people who attended hearing clinics across the State. About 547 of them had hearing problems. The remainder were their family and friends.
Four in 10 said the fact that they had difficulty hearing the TV and radio was the key influence on them seeking treatment. It was often friends and family who pointed out to them that their TV was very loud.
Hearing aids can range in price from about €295 to €1,800, but can they help everybody? That depends on the circumstances and the severity of the loss, according to Dr Nina Byrnes, a GP based in Castleknock, Dublin.
“An awful lot of hearing loss is helped [by using such devices],” she says, adding that it is always worth trying. Seeking treatment early is key too. She says the brain loses the ability to recognise sounds after a while, so those who leave it too long before seeking help may not see a huge difference. “The longer it’s left, the less likely you are to get huge benefit from a hearing aid,” she says.
Byrnes acts as a consultant to Hidden Hearing, a private company that conducts about 30,000 free hearing tests a year in 63 clinics across the country and supplies many people with hearing aids.
For many of those getting hearing aids, there is a period of adjustment required and it’s important to bear with the new device until it is adjusted to the needs of the individual wearing it, she says. It is important to keep going back to the clinic until the aids are properly fitted, she adds.
It is also important that doctors raise the issue of possible hearing problems with patients in case they are embarrassed to mention it themselves or to seek help, she says.
About one in six people in the general population has hearing problems and in the population over 65 years this increases to one in three. Byrnes says she expects the incidence among younger people to increase in the coming years as a result of use of in-ear listening devices such as MP3 players with the volume set at too high a level.
Singer Daniel O’Donnell, who played a key role in encouraging his mother to seek treatment for her hearing loss, was on hand yesterday to support the launch of Hearing Awareness Week.
“My mother suffered from quite a severe hearing impairment, so conversation became increasingly difficult for her and it also put quite a strain on the rest of the family,” he said.
“But we encouraged her to seek treatment and now she lives a much improved lifestyle.”
Source: The Irish Times – Tuesday, March 22, 2011