Royal Voluntary Service and Specsavers have joined forces to raise awareness of age related hearing loss

Monday, 06 July 2015

Listen out...Royal Voluntary Service and Specsavers have joined together to launch the ‘Listen Out’ campaign to raise awareness of age-related hearing loss, the signs to look out for and to encourage people over 55 to have a free hearing check at Specsavers.

  • Half a million over-75s haven’t told family or friends about their hearing loss
  • Two in five over 75s whose hearing has deteriorated are affected socially
  • Report calls for hearing loss to be a public health priority

Fresh evidence of the impact hearing loss has on older people is revealed today in a new report which identifies half a million over 75s are suffering in silence.

The findings found that more than a than a third of those whose hearing had got worse (37 per cent) hadn’t told family or friends and 31 per cent hadn’t sought professional help.

The report marks the launch of a campaign by Royal Voluntary Service and Specsavers, “Listen Out”, which calls on families, friends and neighbours to listen out for signs of hearing loss to ensure older people experiencing the symptoms are supported to get treatment.

Download the full report Hearing loss and older people

The need to address the possible stigma is evidenced by the low percentage of people with hearing loss that wear hearing aids. There are more than 10 million people in the UK with hearing loss (71 per cent of those over 70 years old). Of those, 6 million would benefit from hearing aids, but only 2 million have them and only 30 per cent wear them regularly.

One in six (16 per cent) said they didn’t want to wear hearing aids because they don’t like the look of them while eight per cent admit they are worried they will be treated differently. Five per cent said they thought wearing a hearing aid would make them look old.

The stigma, combined with lack of understanding about the potential for treatment, is causing many to refrain from seeking help with their hearing loss. The most common reason given was that it “wasn’t bad enough”. Other reasons include concerns that they wouldn’t be taken seriously, thinking nothing could be done about it and having learnt to live with it.

In March this year the Department of Health and NHS England published the National Action Plan on Hearing Loss. The national Action Plan commits to a new Commissioning Framework for hearing loss and to improve the links between hearing loss and other services across heath, social care and the voluntary sector. However, the action plan does not propose to address the stigma of hearing loss despite the clear evidence of its significance in the high rates of under-diagnosis and treatment.

"This research proves how vital it is that we normalise hearing loss and hearing aids so older people seek the help they need. There is a worryingly high level of under-diagnosis and as we are living in an ageing society this is a problem that is only going to grow. We believe that the voluntary sector has a role to play in ensuring older people with hearing loss are linked up to services in the community so that no older person is left lonely and isolated."

David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service

"Hearing problems are a growing challenge with over 10 million people living with some form of hearing loss. This is a significant problem at any age and with approximately one in six individuals currently being managed and supported with the condition, it is vital that there are ongoing campaigns to raise awareness about the condition. Public recognition and acceptance of hearing loss is an important step to ensuring that individuals with this condition can communicate effectively and fully participate in society."

Professor Sue Hill OBE, Chief Scientific Officer NHS England
The research found that hearing loss is affecting the social life of 43 per cent of the over 75s whose hearing had deteriorated. Some 36 per cent admitted they pretend to hear when out socially by nodding and smiling.

According to the findings, 18 per cent said not being able to hear properly had made them lose their confidence and nine per cent that they were less social as a result. Worryingly one in 20 feel lonelier because they have stopped going out as much.

Previous research has identified that hearing loss and loneliness are often linked in a vicious circle. Family members can help older people recognize the symptoms and take action but those who live alone and are already isolated, are less likely to take notice or address their hearing loss and are consequently more likely to become further isolated.

"We’ve launched our “Listen Out” campaign with Specsavers, to break the silence for people with hearing loss. We want to get people talking about hearing loss which in turn will mean more people are diagnosed and get the treatment they need, so they can continue to enjoy socialising with their friends and family."

David McCullough, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service

"Experts recommend a hearing test every two years for those aged over 55. If any sort of hearing loss is detected then annual tests will be advised thereafter. But getting a hearing test is one of those things people put off not just for months after they first suspect a problem, but for years. ‘You’d be amazed how many times I’ve heard the words, “I don’t know why I didn’t come sooner”.

If you come to us at, say, 55 and we diagnose hearing loss, then the technology at your disposal isn’t just discreet, it’s also incredibly clever. You’ll get your lifestyle back with this wonderful digital technology."

Colin Campbell, an audiologist and director of professional services at Specsavers
The report identifies the importance of addressing the barriers to diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss among older adults and ensuring those who could benefit from hearing aids are able to do so. It calls on Government, private sector providers and the voluntary sector to work together to tackle the stigma of hearing loss and to improve awareness of the routes to diagnosis and treatment. It makes a number of recommendations including:

  • The barriers to diagnosis and treatment need to be addressed with a public information campaign to “normalise” hearing loss in the public consciousness and tackle the stigma attached.
  • More work needs to be done with professionals in regular contact with older people to improve their understanding of the signs of hearing loss, and to increase their awareness of how to help individuals and of the importance of timely assessment and treatment
  • The NHS must continue to offer patients access to a choice of specialist hearing services, including those offering easy access on the high street, and in people’s own homes.

Anyone who would like more information about hearing loss should visit our section about the tell tale signs of hearing loss or call Specsavers for more information or to book a free hearing test on 0800 023 4731.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteering charities in Britain powered by more than 35,000 volunteers who regularly provide practical help to over 100,000 older people in their homes, communities and in hospitals.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

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