Hearing loss is the most common sensory disability. It affects people of all ages, but often remains undiagnosed or improperly managed. For both children and adults, this fact can have serious consequences.
For health care providers, recognizing hearing loss in patients is an important first step. Communicating with hearing impaired patients can be challenging, but they need your support because the stakes are high.
Social and Educational Impacts
In children, even mild hearing loss can affect speech and language development. Kids with hearing impairment may also struggle at school and fail to form friendships with peers simply because they can’t hear lessons or conversations. In the United Kingdom, writes deafness researcher Chrysa Spyridakou, all newborns are offered an auditory brain stem response test. Yet the U.K. National Screening Committee reported that hundreds of infants with hearing problems went undiagnosed.
Adults struggle with hearing loss, too. Difficulties hearing the telephone or the doorbell can result in more than just missed phone calls or deliveries. Adults who have a hard time hearing may be discouraged from engaging in challenging listening situations. In seniors, this can lead to increased social isolation and, consequently, depression. Working adults may struggle at their jobs and risk injury because they can’t hear alarms associated with machinery and equipment.
Recognizing and Addressing Hearing Loss
Identification and prevention of hearing loss are the solutions that Chrysa Spyridakou recommends as a place to start. The causes of hearing loss may vary by age and family history. For example, healthcare providers should offer a hearing test to all patients over 60. Among younger people, children of parents with bilateral hearing loss should be tested for the possibility that a gene defect may be the cause. All patients should learn about aural hygiene, and any sudden hearing loss should be referred to a specialist immediately.
During medical consultations, patients and providers need to meet in a quiet place with a minimum of background noise. The way that room is furnished with carpets and curtain can improve the acoustics. Doctors and nurses need to speak clearly to patients, and should avoid shouting or talking too quickly to those patients with hearing aids and cochlear implants. Attention to these simple recommendations can help patients get the care they need.
Image Credit: © 9nong/Dollar Photo Club