Seventy-three percent of Australians aged over 70 have a mild to severe hearing loss. This percentage rises as age increases. As many as 85% of people in ‘nursing homes’ are typically hearing impaired.
A mild to moderate hearing loss can interfere with easy and assured conversation – especially in background noise, such as in community areas of aged care facilities [ACFs].
It is believed that one in three older people who need hearing aids have them and that only about a quarter of those who need an aid use one.
Many older people who would benefit from hearing aids wait 6 to 10 years before seeking them. People need motivation to seek and then persevere in the use of aids. Gentle encouragement by carers can help . Also the willingness of carers to assist hearing impaired people in managing their hearing aids is critical for older people who quite commonly have reduced finger and arm dexterity or reduced vision.
If a person is reluctant to get hearing aids, or is unlikely to persevere with them, they may be encouraged to use an ‘assistive listening device’ if only to watch TV, listen to the radio or music and to use a suitable phone to keep in touch with family and friends.
Hearing impairment, if not attended to, can lead to serious consequences. Frustration and embarrassment arising from hearing difficulties can lead to social withdrawal and thus to isolation and loneliness. This can worsen depression and dementia. Recent research also suggests a physiological link between untreated hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease in older people. Ability to enjoy TV, radio, music etc may provide some relief.
Hearing impairment is a ‘hidden’ disability. Hearing impairment is invisible although there are behavioural indicators. People will often try to hide hearing impairment due to a perceived stigma attaching to it. Hearing loss is not well understood in the general community.
This fact sheet was created for public information by Deafness Forum of Australia. It is the national advocacy body for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Australians. It represents all interests and viewpoints including those people who have a chronic disorder of the ear and those who are Deafblind. www.deafnessforum.org.au