Absolutely no pun intended, but here is a piece of information that tends to fall on deaf ears.
One-in-six people worldwide has a hearing loss greater than 25 decibels (dB), according to the World Health Organisation.
About half of them would have a mild hearing loss (25dB or more), while the rest would have what would be categorised as moderate, severe or profound losses.
What’s that you say? One in six of us has a hearing loss?
This may actually be a bit high. The most frequently quoted figure for developed countries is around 10pc of the population, which still suggests nearly 500,000 of us in Irelandhave a hearing loss.
But what is certain is that the numbers are likely to rise thanks to our rapidly ageing population, not to mention ear damage caused by constant exposure to high levels of noise at work, or music at rock concerts and nightclubs, and of course, personal audio devices.
The UK Medical Research Council, for instance, estimates that the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing people is set to increase by about 14pc every 10 years.
But right now, some experts estimate that about 6pc of the adult population could benefit from the fitting of hearing aids.
But why does all this information fall on deaf ears, exactly?
Research suggests people wait an average of 10 years or more before seeking help with a significant hearing loss.
I wish someone would tell that to my elderly dad, as I’m convinced he is going deaf, but he won’t listen. (But then again, maybe he can’t hear me.)
There is no doubting that hearing loss has a serious impact on quality of life. And not just for the individual concerned, but their family and friends too.
There is also no doubting that hearing aids still have a bit of a stigma attached to them, in the same way that glasses used to have before they became high-street fashion items.
Not that hearing aids are ever likely to become fashion items, but the stigma isn’t as strong as it was.
There does seem to be quite a few hearing-aid shops around the place now.
Yes, there has been a huge growth in the private hearing-aid market. Over the past five years, the number of private hearing-aid shops or clinics in Ireland has more than doubled, according to the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (ISHAA).
Even the large optician chain Specsavers has muscled into the market and now has ‘hearing centres’ in most of their opticians around the country. The biggest chain remains Hidden Hearing, which has over 50 clinics throughout Ireland.
The most famous of them all, Bonavox (the highly ironic inspiration behind the stage name of a certain member of U2), is now expanding too. But there also remains lots of reputable, smaller shops.
If I manage to persuade my dad to at least take a hearing test, should I tell him to go to the GP first?
You can go the GP, but unless you have a medical card, most of them will usually point you in the direction of a private hearing-aid shop anyway.
Most private clinics will happily give you a free, “no-obligation” hearing test. If the audiologist is properly qualified, they should refer you back to a GP if they find any suspected medical issues during a hearing examination.
So, how about regulation? There is now an EU standard for private hearing-aid dispensers in place, but this doesn’t mean the sector is now regulated. The ISHAA reckons that regulation is still a number of years away, but it intends to ensure its members all meet the EU standard and develop a comprehensive patient-complaints procedure with the health standards watchdog HIQA.
Source: Irish Independent – John Cradden Thursday February 09 2012