March 3, 2022, by Adele Horobin
Patients and public leading at the crossover of mental health and hearing
Hearing and mental health overlap
For what remain as ‘hidden’ disabilities, hearing and mental health conditions are incredibly common: 1.6 billion people live with hearing loss, while 792 million people are affected by mental health issues. Despite their prevalence, social stigma is attached to both and there is little public understanding of their impact. Also, hearing and mental health research does not receive the same prominence as other health conditions.
We also know that hearing and mental health interact. For example, bouts of depression can precede the onset of tinnitus. Poor hearing can be stressful and doubles the risk of depression. Autistic people may be more sensitive to sound. Hearing loss is linked to dementia. Training and awareness to support mental health for children and adults with hearing loss is lacking.
There is little research which genuinely crosses the divide, from both ways, between hearing and mental health. Also, there are few examples of research and public education in both hearing and mental health that is led by the voice of patients and public. Dr Julia Terry in Wales is doing just this but we are not aware of anything, as yet, in England.
We intend to change this. Our vision is to initiate a change so that hearing and mental health are discussed and addressed together, led and guided by people who know what it is like to live with such challenges.
Led by public members with lived experience
Our group has been established from the mental health and hearing themes of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre and MindTech, which provide exemplar areas of excellence for Patient and Public Involvement (PPI), research, innovation, and implementation.
We will partner with other members of the public, charitable organisations and key researchers to develop research that addresses hearing in mental health, and vice versa and lead projects that improve public and professional understanding of these ‘hidden’ disabilities.
We have defined our vision and mission and started to meet with researchers, locally and nationally, to build upon our existing network. We promoted our vision, mission and intentions at MindTech’s international symposium in December 2021 and you can see our presentation by following the link.
This year, we aim to start building awareness of who we are and what we want to achieve. So, watch this space!
Our initiative is a novel, exciting and potentially important area of work to break down barriers and challenge the “silo mentality” of addressing specific health areas in isolation.
If you would like to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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