UK Commission on Hearing Loss
The UK’s International Longevity Centre is a think tank dedicated to the issues of longevity, ageing and population change. In July 2014, they published a final report from their Commission on Hearing Loss. Since no recent similar research has been published for the Canadian population, I thought I would share the highlights of that report. The report confirms that hearing loss is a large and growing public health issue, estimating that almost 20% of the general population in the UK will have a significant hearing loss by 2031. Unaddressed hearing loss can lead to a withdrawal from social activities, reduced economic activity, and an increased risk of dementia. The report states “There is an apparent lack of knowledge and support across society as a whole about hearing loss.” Suggestions include an alternative method for delivering services with specific recommendations including a national screening program, multiple referral routes, wider availability of hearing tests, better follow-up and rehabilitation, checking for hearing loss in those with dementia and a public awareness campaign. There are several topics from the report that I would like to explore in future articles, but what spoke to me the most was a quotation: “Adding life to years, not years to life”. In my simple capacity, I can not affect a person’s longevity. What is obvious to me though is that people’s lives are significantly improved when they can hear well. Our sense of hearing is a very basic and important part of our lives. Appreciation and awareness of one’s hearing, along with protection and preservation, is my primary mission. What the report makes clear is that the incidence of hearing loss is going to increase over the next number of years and that appropriately addressing it will have a positive impact on society.