Rapid decline in hearing when you hit 55

BIHIMA (the British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association) are calling for annual hearing tests to be mandatory from the age of 55.

Latest research shows the prevalence of hearing loss in the general population more than doubles between the ages of 49 and 59.

Hearing Loss Prevalence_The Lancet

(Source: The Lancet ‘Hearing loss prevalence and years lived with disability’)

Hearing loss is a risk factor which can contribute to cognitive decline, falls in older people, and mental health problems.  It can affect independence, present employment difficulties, and make people feel isolated and less inclined to communicate with friends and family, leading to loneliness and depression.

Hearing tests can pick up hearing loss at an early stage allowing it to be treated and monitored. Regular hearing tests can be used to assess any further deterioration and treatments can be adapted as appropriate.

You can get free hearing tests on the NHS, but you need to self-refer through your GP – they aren’t given as standard. There are high street providers who will test our hearing for free too, but how often do we go?

Less than a third of us are aware that hearing loss is a comorbidity with other health problems. The average amount of time since those aged 55+ have had their hearing tested is 9 years*, yet this age group perceive they should be getting their hearing tested every 3 years. So why aren’t they?

Audiologists are calling for testing to be more frequent than every 3 years. BIHIMA’s latest research found that over 60% of audiologists recommend that people should start having annual hearing tests over the age of 55, and just under 30% of audiologists say annual tests should start even earlier. Almost three quarters of audiologists believe there should be state-funded hearing tests for the over 50s.*

Audiologist comments: “If hearing care is introduced at the same age as dental and optical care it would become a lifetime habit, just like the desire to keep our eyes and teeth in good condition.”

Most of us don’t realise we can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and protect our mental health by simply getting our hearing tested.

Paul Surridge, BIHIMA Chairman, comments: “Many people don’t realise the effect that hearing loss can have on their lives and may be living with hearing loss and its comorbidities for several years before it is recognised. Systemic change is required whereby we see it as part of our routine healthcare to go for an annual hearing test. This is especially important in the older population who are more likely to develop hearing loss and suffer from its comorbidities.”

About BIHIMA:

BIHIMA represents the hearing instrument manufacturers of Britain and Ireland, working in partnership with other professional, trade, regulatory and consumer organisations within the health care and charitable sectors. We raise consumer awareness about the latest hearing technology and aim to influence government and policy makers to improve the lives of people with hearing difficulties.

*Research and Methodology:

  • The consumer research was conducted by Censuswide across 2000 UK adults in February 2020.
  • The audiologist research was conducted by BIHIMA and canvassed a group of 70 audiologists across England and Ireland in December 2020.

References:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00516-X/fulltext

https://www.entandaudiologynews.com/features/audiology-features/post/mapping-the-financial-and-disease-burden-of-hearing-loss-and-associated-interventions