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Thursday, October 8, 1998 Published at 00:10 GMT 01:10 UK


Suffering in silence

Few people who need hearing tests take them

Millions of people would rather live with poor hearing than take a test or wear an aid, a survey has found.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People, which commissioned the research, estimates that five million people in the UK could benefit from a hearing aid, but only two million have them.

The MORI poll found that more than 40% of people who said they had hearing difficulties had not even discussed the problem with a GP.

The reason most people who needed a test gave for not arranging one was "that they think they might be told they need to wear a hearing aid and do not want to wear one", the survey said.

Disruptive condition

It also found that people are four times as likely to go for a sight test than for a hearing test.

James Strachan, chief executive of the institute, said: "The results of this research are truly shocking.

"It shows just how unwilling people are to admit a hearing loss, let alone do something about it."

[ image: Prince Philip launched a hearing test campaign earlier this year]
Prince Philip launched a hearing test campaign earlier this year
The institute said hearing loss could have a traumatic effect on a person's life.

It cites the case of Maurice Strong, a 58-year-old security guard from Twickenham.

He feared being sacked because of the problems he had with his hearing.

He also used to argue with his wife. He said: "I was forever getting the wrong end of the stick which she thought was deliberate.

"I would accuse her of mumbling and we would end up arguing."

His wife persuaded him to see his GP, and he says the hearing aid has changed his life.

"Before I went out of my way to avoid conversations. Now I will talk to anybody."

Mr Strachan added: "Unrecognised hearing loss can wreck marriages, ruin relationships, stall careers and destroy jobs."

Raise profile

The institute published the survey as it launched its Hearing Test Campaign for patients.

The campaign aims to raise the profile of hearing loss and encourage people to see their GP as soon as they become aware of problems.

The warning signs are:

  • Other people seem to mumble
  • People must repeat what they are saying before you understand
  • It is hard to keep up with a group conversation
  • Conversations are tiring because you have to concentrate so much
  • Other people say your music or television is too loud but you cannot hear it if it is turned down
  • You have difficulty hearing on the telephone

The campaign was launched for doctors in June by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Health Secretary Frank Dobson.

Information packs were sent to 39,000 GPs, who were invited to attend refresher seminars around the UK.

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