Benefits of Addressing Hearing Loss with an Action Plan

Benefits of Addressing Hearing Loss with an Action Plan

Hearing loss is becoming more common and is linked to adverse social and economic effects, but it is often not recognized or taken care of. In the same way, public policies meant to control pandemics don’t always consider the needs of people who have trouble hearing. Hearing loss is often overlooked, but if it is seen as an essential public health issue and more money is put into preventing, treating, and rehabilitating hearing loss, it could help reduce the costs of this condition.

A recent article in JAMA suggests a three-point plan for prioritizing the needs of those with hearing loss as we continue navigating through this pandemic. 

The action plan

The action plan has three specific steps that could be taken to help with hearing loss and its effects.

  1. More coordination between health agencies

First, most health systems don’t have a coordinated plan for ear and hearing care (in contrast to other common conditions like cancer and mental illness). So, the available services are often scattered and separated, which makes it hard for doctors and other hearing care professionals to work together and talk to each other. 

A national strategy that includes input from consumers, families, clinicians, payers, governments, and civil society groups could help raise awareness, reduce stigma, improve ways to keep an eye on diseases and strengthen public health initiatives that are already in place.

  1. More accommodation for hearing loss needs

Health care systems should be better able to meet the needs of people who have trouble hearing. To do this, they will need to work with patients and their families to find and fix situations where more accommodations are needed.

The people who work in hospitals need to be taught how to spot hearing loss and talk to people who can’t hear well. The hospital should also make sure that the right people on staff know how to get and use assistive technology when it’s needed.

Some ways to talk to people who have trouble hearing are:

  • Ask the patient what the best way is for you to talk to them. But remember that many people who have trouble hearing don’t know what would make communication easier.
  • Don’t try to talk when there is a lot of noise in the background.
  • Before you start talking, touch or wave your hand to get the patient’s attention, so they look at you.
  • Face the person and make sure your face is lit up.
  • Make sure the patient is wearing their glasses if they usually do so that they can speech read.
  • Make sure your mouth is clear of your hands, pencils, gum, and food so people can see your speech better. Be aware that if the patient has to look up, it will be hard for them to speech read.
  • Don’t yell; it makes it hard for the patient to understand what you’re saying.
  • Make sure you speak clearly and at an average pace (not too fast or too slow), and don’t say things too much. If you need to, use short sentences and rephrase instead of repeating.
  • Check to see if the patient understood everything you said. People who have trouble hearing will often smile and nod as if they understand what you are saying, even if they don’t. Ask the person to repeat what you said to make sure.
  1. More investment into treating hearing loss

Third, the amount of money spent on research into the causes, effects, and best ways to treat hearing loss is not in line with how much it hurts people’s lives and the economy. More money is needed to study the needs and priorities of people with hearing loss and their families.

The current funding of research on hearing loss is under-resourced. There are not enough researchers, and the research being done has limited scope.

Research funding for hearing loss is severely restricted. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has spent $10 million on hearing loss research over the last decade, which does not even come close to covering the needs of people with hearing loss in the U.S. This means there are very few studies on hearing loss and its impact on daily life, health care, education and employment.

The only way to progress on these issues is through increased funding for research on hearing loss and deafness.