The British and Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) is calling for annual hearing tests to be mandatory from the age of 55, according to a press release on its website.
The latest research shows the prevalence of hearing loss in the general population more than doubles between the ages of 49 and 59, according to BIHIMA.
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, BIHIMA says. 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.*
An audiologist commented: “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.”
According to BIHIMA, many don’t realize the risk of cognitive decline can be reduced and mental health protected by simply getting our hearing tested.
Paul Surridge, BIHIMA Chairman, said, “Many people don’t realize 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 recognized. 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.”
*Research and Methodology:
- The consumer research was conducted by Censuswide across 2,000 UK adults in February 2020.
- The audiologist research was conducted by BIHIMA, which canvassed a group of 70 audiologists across England and Ireland in December 2020.
- Haile LM, Kamenov K, Briant PS, et al. Hearing loss prevalence and years lived with disability, 1990–2019: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet. 2021;397(10278):P996-1009.
- Kamenov K, McDaid D, Haile L, Martinez R. Mapping the financial and disease burden of hearing loss and associated interventions. ENT & Audiology News. 2021;30(2).