Health professionals can increasingly play a strong role in encouraging people with hearing loss to take action and get hearing aids, according to a charity.
Latest research has suggested one of the most successful ways of getting people to finally treat their hearing loss was having their nurse or GP proactively mention it to them.
“It still takes people an average of 10 years to take action and get hearing aids”
Action on Hearing Loss – formerly the RNID – said it hoped that if more nurses took this message “on board” it could go some way to reducing the time it took patients to acknowledge and address hearing loss.
The study – published in the International Journal of Audiology – sought to identify interventions that would successfully encourage those with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but do not have them to seek help.
Crystal Rolfe, an audiologist who is the charity’s head of local engagement for London and the South East, conducted the research with a colleague as part of an MSc in health psychology.
They interviewed 22 people, aged 66-88, with hearing loss and identified three barriers to receiving support, defined as “making the journey from realisation to readiness, combatting social stigma, and accessing appropriate services”.
Meanwhile, interventions enabling symptom appraisal, such as routine screening, or demonstrating how to raise the topic effectively “were welcomed”, concluded the researchers.
Action on Hearing Loss said it hoped the research would encourage clinicians to proactively identify and screen patients for hearing loss, and refer onto an audiologist where necessary.
Patients welcome nurse support in broaching hearing loss
The charity said it recommended that health professionals emphasise the benefits of managing hearing loss early before using a “hearcheck” screener or similar tool alongside otoscopy.
Ms Rolfe said: “While there is a huge body of evidence demonstrating the effects hearing loss has on health and wellbeing, it still takes people an average of 10 years to take action and get hearing aids.
“This research demonstrated the enormous amount of stock many people put into the advice and expertise offered by trained medical professionals such as nurses and audiologists,” she said.
“If they are proactive about raising hearing loss during consultations this plays a significant role in reducing this time,” stated Ms Rolfe.
She added: “Hearing loss is associated with poorer health-related quality of life and depression and an increased risk of dementia, encouraging greater uptake of hearing aids is a cost-effective intervention that will make a huge difference.”