Despite 90% of respondents ranking their hearing health as important or extremely important, less than 1 in 4 people in Singapore have taken a hearing test in last 3 years, a survey on Singapore’s attitudes and behaviour towards hearing health has found¹. Amongst those who recognise difficulties in their hearing, an overwhelming 76% are unwilling to seek treatment as they do not find their hearing problems to be consistent or severe enough.
The fine line between positivity and an unknown, and the role of work and families
Launched by Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH), global leader in implantable hearing solutions, the survey reached a diverse sample of 1,000 respondents aged 35+ across Singapore to understand the population’s attitudes and perceptions towards hearing health care. Amongst the total base of respondents, the Top 2 reasons that would make someone more likely to seek treatment for hearing difficulties was if it helped them to stay in the workforce longer, or if it would cause them to be less of a burden for their families. These emotional barriers, atop of accepting hearing loss as a way of ageing, exist despite respondents recognising the negative impact of hearing difficulties on interpersonal relationships (53%), potential isolation from family and friends (32%) and withdrawal from social activities (26%). Families, friends and even workforce colleagues hence play a critical role in encouraging their loved ones to detect and treat hearing difficulties early, even if the problem might be small in the early stages.
Improving detection of hearing issues at community level for early intervention
The theme for World Hearing Day 2023 focused on ‘Ear and hearing care for all’², concentrating on the importance of integrating ear and hearing care within primary care settings. The World Health Organisation states that ear and hearing health problems are among the most common problems encountered in the community, and of which at least 60% can be identified and addressed at the primary level of care².
The findings from Cochlear’s survey show that 57% of respondents report that they are very or extremely concerned about their hearing health; 25% of all respondents face difficulty hearing when there is noise in the background, with this figure rising to 36% amongst those above the age of 65. Respondents over the age of 65 are also significantly more likely to misunderstand others (24% vs 19% in total) or follow conversations when multiple people are talking (20% vs 12% in total).
Worryingly, 19% of respondents with hearing difficulties have been battling it for more than 5 years, with this proportion rising to 30% amongst those above the age of 65. 61% of these respondents currently do not use any devices to help them hear better.
“The findings of these survey affirm why we are committed to helping people hear. As powerful as hearing solutions are, their potential to help people regain a critical part of their lives can only be maximised if people take the first step in understand their state of hearing. It is encouraging to better understand what drives people to take action on their hearing health, which creates opportunities for us to join hands and improve our hearing health as a population. Despite this, the survey highlights the stigma still associated with hearing loss and the lack of awareness around when, where and how to seek help. Those who have hearing devices must be encouraged to share their hearing journey among friends, family, and the community to help others to understand the realities of hearing loss. With this year’s World Hearing Day theme ‘Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality” is extremely important in Singapore and Cochlear hopes to encourage more conversations around hearing and hearing health screenings in the community,” commented Amy Zheng, General Manager, Asia Growth Markets, Cochlear.
Overcoming barriers to seeking treatment at the primary care level
While more than two thirds (68%) of survey respondents are positively inclined towards getting a hearing check-up, the survey found gaps in awareness of where to get one. Only 46% of those surveyed report that they have received good information and education from their family General Practitioners (GPs) on their hearing health, and only 23% have had a hearing test during a GP checkup; this is less than half the number of respondents who had a vision test done by a GP in the same timeframe.
Of those facing hearing difficulties, just 24% have been in treatment or are seeking treatment. 34% of those surveyed are still looking for suitable treatment, while 11% do not intend to seek treatment. A key stumbling block for 32% of those who have not sought help was identified as the lack of awareness around where and how to seek help.
In terms of understanding of hearing solutions available, it was found that over one third (35%) of survey respondents were familiar with the term ‘cochlear implants’, especially highest amongst those who have sought treatment for hearing difficulties. In the coming months, Cochlear will drive awareness about the value of hearing health to the public through its various channels on topics related to hearing loss and available solutions in the market.
¹ Understading Consumer Sentiment Toward Hearing Health survey. Survey of 1,000 conducted by Cochlear Limited, December 2022 to January 2023.
² World Health Organization. (n.d.). World Hearing Day 2023. World Health Organization. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hearing-day/2023
³ World report on hearing. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
4 Lee, Gary & Danker, Adrian & Wong, Yu & Lim, Ming. (2017). Hearing Loss amongst the Elderly in a Southeast Asian Population – A Community-based Study. Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore. 46. 145-154.
5 Ministry of Health Singapore. 2011. National Health Survey 2010. Singapore: Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health