Overview for Hearing Loss in the Primary Care Setting

Hearing loss is a partial or complete inability to hear; the onset occurs either suddenly or as a gradual decline in how well a person can hear. (5)

Why is it important?

  • Hearing loss is one of the fastest growing and prevalent chronic conditions affecting Canadians over the age of 65;
    more than 30% of these individuals experience some degree of hearing loss (6)
  • Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact one’s quality of life; decreased functional health, and reduced participation
    in social activities are symptoms of a person’s inability to cope with hearing loss (4)
  • Older adults with unmanaged hearing loss are at increased risk of cognitive decline, developing dementia, delirium and
    falling (3)
  • 90% of those with hearing loss can improve communication with proper assistive devices, environmental redesign, or
    counseling (3)

Common Causes

  • The two most common types of hearing loss include age-related (presbycusis) and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) (9)
  • Other causes include: infection, heart conditions, stroke, head injuries, tumours and certain medications (7)

Key Considerations

  • Conduct the Whisper Test to screen for hearing loss.  (whisper test & how to)
  • Health professionals should consider referring patients to an audiologist and hearing centres for consideration of hearing
    aides, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices or to learn lip reading
  • Patients may benefit from other assistive devices such as volume control telephones, computers to communicate,
    closed-captioned TV or decoder, amplifiers, and visual or vibrating alarms (1)
  • Cost for many is a key consideration when considering buying a hearing aid. Hearing aids and specialized audio systems must be
    purchased from a vendor registered with the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). ADP will reimburse eligible Ontarians
    75% of the cost, including dispensing fee, ear molds and accessories, to a maximum of:
    • $500 of the cost of one hearing aid
    • $1,000 for two hearing aids
    • $1,350 of the cost of a specialized audio system (2)
  • When communicating with a patient: maintain eye contact, speak clearly and naturally,  move hands away from face,
    remove audio distractions, write things down if needed, use facial expressions and gestures when appropriate
  • To prevent further decline, avoid prolonged exposure to sounds greater than 85dB which can lead to permanent hearing
    loss (8)

References

1.  Canadian Academy of Audiology. (2014). Retrieved February 2014 from:  
     https://canadianaudiology.ca/for-the-public/hearing-aids-and-implants/

2.  Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. (2010). Canadian Hearing Aid Subsidies
     Retrieved February 2014 from:
     www.chha.ca/documents/Hearing_Aid_Subsidies_Across_Canada.pdf

3.  Canadian Hearing Society. (2013). Facts and Figures. Retrieved February 2014 from:  
     http://www.chs.ca/facts-and-figures

4.  National Academy on an Aging Society. (1999). Hearing Loss. Retrieved February 2014 from:
     http://www.agingsociety.org/agingsociety/pdf/hearing.pdf

5.  National Institutes of Health. (2013). Hearing Loss and Older Adults. Retrieved February 2014 from:  
     http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/older.aspx

6.  Public Health Agency of Canada. (2006). Hearing Loss Info-Sheet for Seniors. Retrieved February 2014 from:
     http://seniorspolicylens.ca/Root/Materials/Adobe%20Acrobat%20Materials/Hearing_Loss_Info-Sheet.pdf

7.  The Hearing Foundation of Canada. (2010). Causes of Hearing Loss. Retrieved February 2014 from:    
     http://www.hearingfoundation.ca/causes-of-hearing-loss/

8.  The Hearing Foundation of Canada. (2010). Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Prevention. 
     Retrieved February 2014 from:
     http://www.hearingfoundation.ca/noise-induced-hearing-loss/

9.  The Hearing Foundation of Canada. (2010). Statistics. Retrieved February 2014 from:  
     http://www.hearingfoundation.ca/statistics/

Issue/Condition - Problème / état: 
Sector of Care - Secteur des soins: 
Resource Type - Type de Ressources: 
Author/Publisher - Auteur/Éditeur: 
The Centre for Studies in Aging and Health
Date Published: 
2014-01