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Hidden crisis of hearing loss

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Posted on 21st November 2012.

By Dr Rekha Elaswarapu, Helping Hands Advisor

A World of Silence – The case for tackling hearing loss in care homes’ is a report published by the charity ‘Action on Hearing Loss’. The report concludes that up to 250,000 elderly people in England have undiagnosed or unsupported hearing loss because of a hidden crisis in care homes.

The charity said it had found a “high level of undiagnosed hearing loss” among care home residents because staff lacked the training to recognise problems and elderly residents accepted that their failing hearing was part of the ageing process.

Evidence suggests that people with hearing loss can live a very fulfilling life with early intervention and little bit of support. Lack of hearing can render a person frustrated due to not being able to communicate well with their finds and family as well as the staff caring for them. This could in turn result in social isolation and in some cases challenging behaviour. It is important that there is a considerable awareness of identifying signs of hearing loss and management of hearing aids.

This is not the first time this issue has been raised; previous studies have indicated lack of management of hearing aids, such as not fitting them properly, not switching them on and in some cases patients losing their aids during a hospital episode.

Action on Hearing Loss is calling for a public health programme to raise awareness about this as well as asking the regulator Care Quality Commission to include communication as one of the standards in their assessment of social care services.

Being able to hear and enjoy social relationships is an integral part of dignity and respect for people receiving care in any settings. A live-in carer is in a very good position to pick up the signs of hearing loss and facilitate early intervention.

Sally Tomkotowicz