Infections that last

August 2009

Clinical

Preventing the psychosocial risks of hearing loss

Volume 38, No.8, August 2009 Pages 591-593

William Noble

Background

The consequences of hearing loss acquired in adulthood include reduced occupational, personal and social capabilities.

Objective/s

This article discusses the psychosocial impact of hearing impairment and the role of the general practitioner in addressing these issues.

Discussion

There is considerable evidence that people whose hearing is declining are reluctant to acknowledge it because of the stigma associated with this particular type of impairment. Males are more likely to exhibit such reluctance. There is also evidence that acquired hearing loss is associated with increased emotional distress and related mental health problems. General practitioners can play a key role by responding sensitively to signs of reduced hearing ability in their patients, and recommending the use of human and technical resources that address obstacles to communication such as the National Relay Service. This service relies on telecommunication systems that maintain connections between people with hearing loss and the surrounding world.

In Australia, more than 2 million people currently suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The incidence of hearing loss increases with each decade of life and is somewhat higher in men than women.1 The risk of hearing loss with increasing age is increased by factors such as occupational noise, smoking and high body mass index (BMI).2

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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