Whilst physical distancing has become our new normal to keep our community safe, social engagement and interaction during these unprecedented times is more important than ever. This is of vital importance for all age groups.
Literature shows social connectedness provides emotional and intellectual stimulation and this is critical to longevity and mortality. Social connectedness is directly related to being able to hear and communicate. When loneliness is discussed in the media, it’s usually in the context of older people. However, at any age it can be very difficult to forge meaningful connections and even harder now with the restrictions of COV19.
Whilst we cannot encourage our patients to get out and about and mingle with friends and family, we can encourage social connectedness through access to the world and community news, speaking to friends and family via phone and social media. Whilst this may seem easy for people with healthy hearing, those with any degree of hearing loss it has been not only challenging but also frightening at times.
Over the last few months we have had important health advice distributed through news sources, TV and Radio. For those not able to hear medical advice and government guidelines, hold and follow clear conversations on the phone with friends and family – it can be extremely stressful and isolating. For geriatric populations, likely to also be tackling other comorbidities, this added stress can be debilitating.
To those who hear well a visit to a health professional isn’t a big deal. However, for hearing impaired persons, it is a nerve-wracking experience from the minute they walk in and sit waiting for their name to be called, to then being able to hear their medication and treatment recommendations. Adding further to these complications, is the mainstream use of medical opaque surgical masks. These remove facial cues and degrade speech understanding ability, heightened in those with even a mild hearing loss.
This can be addressed with hearing rehabilitation services. This is one reason Victorian Hearing is proud to be an essential service and will remain dedicated to providing a gold standard level of hearing rehabilitation services to our patients who need it most.
Should your patients express feelings of loneliness, social isolation and feeling disconnected, we encourage you as medical professionals to refer them for a comprehensive diagnostic hearing assessment.
Most hearing aid models now have the ability to be fitted and finely tuned remotely without the need to attend the clinic. Providing contactless hearing testing, hearing aid fine tuning and fitting appointments provides confidence for patients who are currently in isolation and are not yet ready to attend a face to face appointment.
Alternatively, if a patient would prefer to interact with an experienced audiologist face to face, they can request a home visit appointment to perform any required assessments.