Hearing impaired

Hearing impaired or hard of hearing

A person who is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing – hearing thresholds of 25 dB or better in both ears – is said to have hearing loss. Hearing loss may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. It can affect one ear or both ears, and leads to difficulty in hearing conversational speech or loud sounds.

‘Hard of hearing’ refers to people with hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. People who are hard of hearing usually communicate through spoken language and can benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices as well as captioning. People with more significant hearing losses may benefit from cochlear implants.

‘Deaf’ people mostly have profound hearing loss, which implies very little or no hearing. They often use sign language for communication.

Terminology such as hearing impaired or hard of hearing is used when a person has mild to moderate hearing loss, but is again down to personal preference. The term deafened is used when a person loses their hearing due to an illness, accident, or age-related hearing loss. The latter is found to be the largest cause of hearing loss in the UK. Other causes of hearing loss can be many and varied such as:
  • difficulties during birth and/or genetic causes,
  • injury or infection,
  • disease(s) such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), and
  • exposure to loud noises.

Deafness and hearing loss in general is an issue because it can be very disabling. People with significant hearing loss can certainly feel, and often are, very isolated because communication becomes increasingly difficult. Tensions within households rise and problems with neighbours increase eg volume of TV leading to complaints and sometimes legal action.

Headlines

  • Around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss (1), and 34 million of these are children.
  • It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing.
  • 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
  • 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12–35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings.
  • People with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.

The Population

Over 5% of the world’s population, or 466 million people, have disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people, or one in every ten people, will have disabling hearing loss.

  • In 2017, Wakefield had 5,954 people aged over 18 years predicted as having a severe hearing loss, and 58,419 as having some hearing loss, but the RNID also states that figures from the registers should be treated with caution due to significant under-reporting (Deaf Community HNA, 2010).
  • In 2017, Wakefield also had 131 people aged 18-64, predicted to have a serious visual impairment; 5,491 people aged 65+ predicted to have a moderate or severe visual impairment, and 1,779 people aged 75+ predicted to have registrable eye conditions. However, these figures are underestimated, as it only records people who register with the Council.
  • These figures are notoriously inaccurate because of under reporting and the absence of the kind of recording and informing framework available for Blind and Partially sighted persons.
  • Recent HNAs of the deaf community have suggested that people in that community felt their health was good and did not feel any less healthy than their hearing counterparts – although this is a self-reported and subjective measure (Deaf Community HNA, 2010).

The table below shows the Wakefield population aged 18+ predicted to have some, or severe, hearing loss, by age, projected to 2021.

Source: PANSI and POPPI

Challenges

Without suitable interventions, hearing loss poses a significant challenge in the lives of those affected. Many causes of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures. Through rehabilitation, education and empowerment, people with hearing loss can reach their full potential.

Raising awareness and improving access to services at the primary health care level can help to reduce the prevalence and adverse impact of hearing loss.

Functional impact of hearing loss

One of the main impacts of hearing loss is on the individual’s ability to communicate with others. Spoken language development is often delayed in children with unaddressed hearing loss.

Unaddressed hearing loss and ear diseases such as otitis media can have a significantly adverse effect on the academic performance of children. They often have increased rates of grade failure and greater need for education assistance. Access to suitable accommodations is important for optimal learning experiences but are not always available.

Social and emotional impact of hearing loss

Exclusion from communication can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration, particularly among older people with hearing loss.

Economic impact of hearing loss

WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion. This includes health sector costs (excluding the cost of hearing devices), costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs.

In developing countries, children with hearing loss and deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss also have a much higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce.

Improving access to education and vocational rehabilitation services, and raising awareness especially among employers about the needs of people with hearing loss, will decrease unemployment rates for people with hearing loss.

The below demonstrates the current position in Wakefield in relation to our Yorkshire and Humber neighbours across several of the key hearing impairment indicators. Wakefield is currently similar than the England average for many indicators (those indicators coloured yellow).

You can click on the “trends” option below to explore the trends in the various measures.

Source: Public Health England

Service Provision

Action on Hearing Loss is the UK’s national charity helping people who are confronting life-changing deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss.

Publications

Wakefield Deaf Community Health Needs Assessment Report, 2014