Dr Helen Henshaw
Senior Research Fellow, Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss,
NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre
Hearing problems can profoundly affect our personal, social and working lives. Collaboration between scientists and clinicians can help translate the latest research into new treatments and therapies for hearing loss.
Hearing aids are probably what most of us would recognise when thinking about managing hearing loss.
Digital technology is changing the functionality of hearing aids. There are now models that are controlled via mobile phone apps, aids that can monitor health markers – such as pulse rate and movement – and aids that can alert users that they may be about to fall.
Alternative, over-the-counter choices, include “hearables”. These comprise personal sound amplification products and hearing aid mobile apps, which widen the options for people managing their own hearing loss1. Research to understand if these could replace hearing aids is a priority for patients.2
Managing hearing loss over time
Hearing loss is often a lasting and progressive condition, but educational tools can help people manage their condition with ongoing support. Research indicates that these tools can improve patients’ understanding of hearing aids and increase hearing aid usage3.
With one in six of the UK population living with hearing loss, rising to one in five by 2035, future research will need to consider a comprehensive approach to managing adult hearing loss. This approach will need to combine campaigns to raise awareness and reduce stigma, routine screening to enable early detection, and integrated health and care systems to offer better support.
1: Maidment DW, Barker AB, Xia J, Ferguson MA. A systematic review and meta-analysis assessing the effectiveness of alternative listening devices to conventional hearing aids in adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Int J Audiol. 2018;57(10):721-729. 2: Henshaw, H., Sharkey, L., Crowe, D., & Ferguson, M. (2015). Research priorities for mild-to-moderate hearing loss in adults. The Lancet, 386(10009), 2140-2141. 3: Ferguson, M., Brandreth, M., Brassington, W., Leighton, P., & Wharrad, H. (2016). A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the benefits of a multimedia educational program for first-time hearing aid users. Ear and hearing, 37(2), 123.