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Happy Birthday Ma'am..... Pardon?!

Just like the majority of the UK, we were delighted to be able to wish Her Majesty a very Happy 90th Birthday last week. Unlike many of us, the Queen gets to celebrate twice – once on her actual birthday in April and once again for the Monarch’s official birthday at the Trooping of the Colour ceremony, which this year is on Saturday 11th June. We are sure the Queen will be delighted to experience the annual festivities for her official birthday – a visual feast accompanied by the wonderful sounds of the Military bands playing at full blast!

Whilst we can find no stories in the Press relating to Her Majesty’s hearing (or indeed lack of it) at the age of 90, there are well documented reports of Prince Philip’s struggles with his hearing. When presented with a pair of ear defenders for his own 90th birthday, the Duke was heard to enquire “can you get Radio 3 on this?”. We can only imagine the conversation when, aged 93 in 2014, the Duke was fitted with bi-lateral hearing aids – his quick-fire comments and probing questioning are well known!

The Duke’s devices are the most discreet of models, which are apparently available through the NHS. It has been observed that the Duke’s need for hearing assistance is unsurprising at his age, and this is indeed the case. Over the years it has become apparent to those close to Royal circles that he finds it hard to keep track of conversations and the Queen often has to update him. Royal spokesmen have declined to comment officially on the grounds that the Duke’s hearing aids are a “medical matter”.

Prince Philip has, until fairly recently, been Patron to Action on Hearing Loss (now replaced by the Duke of York as the nonagenarian Duke of Edinburgh scales back his working commitments) and the charity’s own statistics on Hearing Loss and how it affects our aging population are quite astonishing. Supported by other studies recently undertaken (UCL is another reputable source) it is quite clear that our hearing (or lack of it) is having a profound effect on our lives!

In 2011 there were approximately 10 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss – that is a staggering 1 in 6 of the population. It is estimated that, as the population ages and the iPod generation continues to abuse their ears with loud music via ear-buds and headphones, this figure will rise to 14.5 million by 2031.

In a recent study of the Nation’s health, older men were shown to be the most likely to suffer with some form of hearing loss. Half of men over the age of 65 display some form of hearing loss, whilst only 38% of women suffer the same fate. Hearing loss increases markedly with age. It affects 14% of people aged 55 – 64, 29 % aged 65 – 74, 55% aged 75 – 84 and 83% aged 85 and over. To contrast this, approximately 98% of people aged 16 – 24 had good hearing. The UCL study found that a significant proportion of people were unaware of their hearing loss; nearly one quarter of men (23%) and one in six women (17%) aged 55 or over who reported they had no difficulties hearing actually did suffer from a hearing loss. Less than a third (31%) of those aged 55 or over with hearing loss use a hearing aid and only a quarter of adults with moderate or worse hearing loss had taken a hearing test in the last year.

The report, co-written by Dr Jennifer Mindell, Reader in Public Health at UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, noted that hearing difficulties make conversations difficult, restrict people’s enjoyment of their social and personal life and can make people feel cut off from things. Social isolation is a big problem for both the hearing impaired and the profoundly deaf. Clearly, such levels of hearing loss are a cause for concern, particularly where people are unaware of their hearing loss and/or do not to wear a hearing aid.

With these stark statistics telling their own story, it is high time we all learned to “love our ears” and take better care of them – we only get one pair and they need to last us a lifetime!

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