Survey uncovers hearing loss as a cause of breakdown in relationships in Northern Ireland RELATIONSHIPS throughout Northern Ireland are failing because of unmanaged hearing loss, according to a survey commissioned by Specsavers hearing centres.The survey, of over 55-year-olds with hearing loss in the area, has revealed that: * Half (50%) have found that relationships with their partner or friends and family have suffered as a result of having a hearing loss, and a third (33%) have lost touch with people because of this * Two thirds (68%) of people find their hearing loss affects their ability to take part in conversations with friends and family, and almost half (47%) feel left out and ignored because of this * More than half (57%) agreed that if their hearing improved this would improved relationships with friends and family * Almost half (41%) think that losing their hearing is the worst thing about getting oldActress and lifelong hearing loss sufferer Stephanie Beacham, who has been completely deaf in one ear since birth, says: ‘This research doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Having a hearing issue is extremely frustrating and socially isolating. It’s so boring having a conversation that neither person can engage in properly, shouting louder and straining to hear is not good. ‘I can see exactly why relationships breakdown and it is so sad to think that a loving couple can go through life happily together and then, because of hearing loss, the effect on their relationship can be unnecessarily devastating.’Stephanie continues: ’No one should suffer in silence. Whether it is you, a partner or friend with hearing loss, the main obstacle we have to overcome is the stigma. Like many other conditions, hearing problems can be managed in most cases with hearing aids, however, the first crucial step is to have a hearing test.’The survey, commissioned by Specsavers hearing centres, was conducted online by onepoll.com and face-to-face at the Pensioners Parliament, held by the National Pensioners Convention in Blackpool last month. When questioned, respondents said that the social exclusion they experienced as a result of their hearing loss left them feeling depressed, anti-social and with no self worth.The survey also revealed that more than half (53%) agreed that an improvement in their hearing would make relationships between them and their family and friends more harmonious.Specsavers hearing aid audiologist, Colin Campbell, says: ‘As we get older, our hearing can naturally deteriorate. Very often, this kind of hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids, which can transform the lives of people who have lived with their hearing loss for years.‘Let’s not forgot younger people – increasing numbers of them are suffering from hearing loss as a consequence of modern day life, such as listening to loud music, living in noisy environments and generally exposing their ears to sounds levels that they were not designed to hear.’Stephanie is working with Specsavers hearing centres to find a deaf or hard of hearing hero in the first Sound Barrier Star awards. Recognising achievement or courage in the deaf or hard of hearing, Specsavers will donate £5 for every nomination received to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.Specsavers offers free hearing tests at more than 400 stores across the UK. To book an appointment or for more information please call 0808 143 1143 or visit www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing.