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Planning Retirement Online

Laterlife focuses on loss of hearing

Are you going deaf???

Special edition: focuses on loss of hearing 

Ten Facts About Hearing Loss  

  • One in five of all adults, and more than half of people over 60 have a hearing loss

  • 8.5 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing

  • 1.7 million people have hearing aids but it is estimated that around 7.4 million would benefit from one

  • From the ages of 40 to 80, a higher proportion of men than women are hard of hearing 

  • Women with hearing loss may fear loss of attractiveness

  • Oestrogen may protect women from hearing loss

  • The major causes of hearing loss in women under 45 are loud noise, degenerative diseases such as lupus and chronic inflammatory disease


  • Among people over the age of 80, more women than men are hard of hearing 

  • Cigarette smoking may damage hearing ability. Smokers are nearly 70 per cent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss

  • Former President Clinton has digital in-canal

    hearing aids fitted in both ears



      Lack of deaf awareness costs NHS £20 million a year


    The NHS is wasting £20 million a year due to a lack of deaf awareness. This is just one of the conclusions revealed in a major new report, ‘A Simple Cure?’ published by RNID, the charity representing the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK.


    ‘A Simple Cure?’ is the most comprehensive national survey of deaf and hard of hearing people’s experience of the health service.  It paints a stark picture of the poor access to health care experienced by people in the UK who have a hearing loss. And the report calls for practical solutions that will make a dramatic difference for little investment.


    Here’s what the report reveals:

  • a quarter (24 per cent) of deaf or hard of hearing patients had missed at least one appointment, due to poor communication.



  • for 19 per cent of these respondents, this had happened on more than five occasions. Cost to the NHS in terms of missed appointments alone is an estimated £20 million a year.

  • 42 per cent of deaf or hard of hearing people, who visited hospitals in a non-emergency capacity, found it difficult to communicate with NHS staff.


  • over a third (35 per cent) of deaf or hard of hearing people had been left unclear about their condition because of communication problems with GP or nurse.


  • a third of British Sign Language users were either unsure of the correct dosage of medication to take for another medical condition, or had taken too much or too little medication, because of a communication problem with their health professional.


  • 70 per cent of BSL users admitted to Accident and Emergency units were not provided with a sign language interpreter.


     RNID is calling for:


  • wider use of existing technology, including visual alert displays and loops systems.

  • deaf awareness training for all medical and nursing undergraduates.

  • NHS to instigate training seminars to ensure all GP surgeries and hospitals have at least one front line member of staff who has been formally trained in deaf awareness and practical communication skills.

  • all written communication, such as letters confirming appointments, to be written in clear English for British Sign Language users.

  • an updated NHS Disability Access Audit, which includes the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people.

  • access to video interpreting technology in areas where there is a high concentration of BSL users 

    866 deaf and hard of hearing people responded with their experiences of visiting GP surgeries and hospitals in December 2003 

    For a selection of literature about hearing loss and hearing aids, conact RNID Information Line on freephone 0808 808 0123 or forward your postal details to

    Alternatively, factsheets may be downloaded from our website at


A brief history of hearing aids

  •      Ear trumpets were readily available in the 16th and 17th centuries. An audience at the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s day would probably have exhibited several hundred ear trumpets!

  •      In the 17th century, speaking tubes were adapted for a special sort of hearing problem when Puritan couples were courting. Custom required the two to sit across the table from one another with speaking tubes used to ensure the privacy of their conversations.

  •      Beethoven used three different ear trumpets in his lifetime. One of these was made by J.N. Mälzel (1772-1838), who is also credited with the invention of the metronome. You can see Beethoven’s ear trumpets on display at his house in Vienna.

  •      The first ever “Acoustic Throne” is said to have been made for King Goa VI of Portugal in 1706. Each armrest has openings carved in the shape of lion heads. Courtiers would kneel and speak into the mouthpieces formed by the openings in the arms!

  •      Ageing has always been identified as a major cause of hearing loss. According to Oliver Wendell Holmes, a New England Deacon, “The Architect of the ear did not design it to give perfect service for a hundred years to a day, nor even for the traditional four-score.”

  •      The 19th century saw new design trends emerging. Bulky devices such as ear trumpets and hearing tubes were dispensed with in favour of hidden devices that could be incorporated into everyday items. Unusual items included “acoustic fans” which were very popular with 19th century women. Devices were also disguised as vases, walking sticks and canes,  or concealed beneath men’s beards!

  •      More recently, electrical hearing devices have been incorporated into earrings, purses, lighters and spectacles. 

  •      One strange 19th century device, the ‘dentaphone’, took the form of a round flat case with a thin diaphragm at the front. The device was gripped between the teeth, sound was picked up by the diaphragm and passed to the user’s teeth via vibrations through a piece of silk covered wire. Good for hearing a question but not so good for replying to it!

How Pamela Pickwell got her hearing back 

Older analogue hearing aids have a limited frequency range and tend to distort sound. Modern digital hearing aids have greatly improved things, but they are designed to clarify human speech rather than music. Until very recently, none of the hearing aid companies produced a digital aid geared for music listening as well as everyday conversation.   

Pamela Pickwell, aged 58, a music teacher from Scunthorpe, is one sufferer to have discovered a solution: Senso Diva. Recently created by Danish manufacturer Widex, Senso Diva is the first hearing aid to incorporate a ‘music listening’ function, which users can switch to at will.   

“From around 1995, I started to have hearing problems. At first the signs were small, but they gradually got worse. I couldn’t hear voices from the side, and could only hear clearly when someone speaking was directly opposite me. If I was at a meeting, I couldn’t blank out background noises. I wasn’t picking up clear conversation or high-pitched sounds.

“My mother had always refused to acknowledge that she needed a hearing aid, and I was determined not to do the same. But even so, I didn’t get my hearing checked out until a couple of years ago. I’m not sure why. I suppose it was partly because I was ‘in denial’ about the problem and partly because I didn’t think my hearing was that bad, because I had nothing to compare it to.

“So it must have been around the year 2000 that I went to a local hearing centre and was tested by an audiologist. I started with an analogue device in one ear, and then found I needed one in the second ear, especially as I got a buzzing noise when using the ‘phone. These really helped my hearing. Concerts, cinema were better than before, though even then the devices didn’t blank out the background noises.

“After about three years, last May, I went back to the centre and asked for something that would give me better clarification. That’s when I was introduced to the Senso Diva. 

“I really am amazed by the results. I haven’t heard music as clearly as this for thirty years. When I got home, I listened to my favourite piece, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. When I closed my eyes it felt like I was in a concert hall. It was magical. 

“I attend church regularly, and recently we had a singalong in the church hall.  With the analogue aids, I would have felt that everyone was shouting and it would have difficult to pick out individual voices, even those next to me. Now, there was none of that. I could hear everything and there were no problems because the Senso has this special  ‘music listening’ function, which you can switch to when you need it.

“It has made all the difference at home too.  We have a good music sound system, and now I can pick out the different instruments again. And the other good thing about the Senso is that it is so discreet. You really can’t see it.

The cost is high, around £2,500, and I could have waited and done it through the NHS. But quality of life is so important, and it was worth every penny.” 

Senso Diva UK Customer Enquiries: 0800 093 0947



laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also regular columns of a more specialist nature such as healthwise, reports from the REACH files, and a beauty section called looking good in later life.

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