There are an estimated 10 million people in the UK with some degree of hearing loss, and research suggests this will have grown by 4.5 million by 2031. This ranges from a moderate loss to total deafness, and while some sufferers will refuse to let it affect their lives, and others wear hearing aids through processes such as Hidden Hearing tests, there will be others whose lives have been severely disrupted.
If our hearing capabilities diminish through age, genetics or accident, then our ability to deal with external factors in our lives can be dramatically affected. General health can be damaged or ruined if we suffer an accident that could have been avoided with good hearing. Crossing busy roads and negotiating cities is a nightmare, driving skills are compromised, and manual work becomes considerably more dangerous – especially work where loud sounds are part of the routine.
According to the Guardian there is a significant volume of research that shows hearing loss can lead to a raft of other health issues, such as increased falls, Alzheimer’s and even sight loss. In addition many workers lose their jobs, as phone calls, Skyping, face-to-face meetings and other means of communication become largely impossible. The Guardian states that of 300,000 working age people in Britain with severe hearing impairments, 30% were unemployed or unable to look for work.
Just as important as physical health are the mental and social issues that accompany hearing disorders or disabilities. Activities that we take for granted such as attending gigs, playing sports, going to the cinema and simply having a pint with friends at the pub become potential sources of distress.
People with hearing loss may suffer embarrassment in social situations, and/or anxiety, paranoia and worst of all social isolation, which can also lead to depression. This then spirals when the sufferer becomes scared of leaving their home and seeing others. In the case of the elderly, combine the loss of hearing with faltering eyesight, mobility and strength, and you have a recipe for total social deprivation.
The saddest element of the problem is that, in many cases, hearing loss can be cleared up or tackled with an aid. The tiny devices are now so discrete that they can barely be seen.
But here’s another thing that you may never have considered before – the costs of untreated hearing loss, in terms of both time and money. According to the Ear Foundation, as reported by NCHA, untreated adult hearing loss could cost the economy as much as £30 billion a year in lost productivity and unemployment.
Worst of all, this figure could rise further if NHS organisations go ahead with potential plans to ration hearing aids. Hearing loss affects us all if we live long enough, but some of us are unlucky and suffer at an earlier age. That loss can then spread to other aspects of our health, and even other peoples’ and the results can be devastating. The conclusion is clear – get your hearing checked, as it could save your overall health.