The Social Isolation of Hearing Loss

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Chee is a mate I met through our days as road cyclists. We bonded over carbon frameworks, 45km rides before our 8:30am to 5 pm work days, long blacks and marginal gains on the bike. We also realised, thanks to the 6 degrees of separation that Perth brings, that we attended university at the same time and had about 100 mutual friends. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before we crossed paths.

Jessica Strutt is the host of ABC Focus (10am WAST), a reporter and journalist and all round great conversational facilitator. Today was the first time we met and it was a pleasure to be on her show.

The background to this piece

Whilst I was trolling Facebook one day, I saw Chee had posted a request for recommendations for any ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialists. Being connected in this industry I privately reached out to Chee to see if I could assist in any way. A few messages later and Chee came to visit me in the clinic within days of contact. 

I undertook a full case history and assessed his hearing and auditory pathways. We discussed the results and went through a few recommendations. I touched based frequently with Chee throughout the process to ensure he was coping emotionally with whatever situation may present itself. After our meeting and assessment, I booked him in with an ENT the next day and wrote a report to his GP. 

Chee, Jessica & I at ABC Studios for the live recording of Hearing Loss and Social Isolation

The prognosis

I got a call from Chee shortly after he obtained his MRI results. Looking at his audiological results and listening to his case history, I feared the worse. This was confirmed immediately when I heard the tone of Chee’s voice in the phone call. He was diagnosed with a 25mm glossopharyngeal (cranial nerve IX) schwannoma, displacing and compressing the facial and vestibular-cochlear nerves and accounting for the single sided hearing loss. 

Which leads me to why we were invited onto the ABC focus show. Chee practices yoga and one of his mates is a producer at ABC. She heard his story and was shocked to learn about his results given how fit Chee is. She immediately recognised there was a large gap in the market when it came to understanding hearing loss and social isolation and knew this would be an important piece to highlight.

The show

When I was originally welcomed to the show we had a focus of discussing hearing loss in young adults, however as the conversation unravelled, the more evident title of ‘Social Isolation and hearing loss’ became the main focus.

There are many co-morbidities and aspects of hearing loss and tinnitus that were not covered in this edited version of the discussion (the live version went for 60 minutes!), however I think this is a great way to start conversations around the importance of connection, hearing and hearing loss.

Here is the link to the awesome ABC focus conversation: The social isolation of hearing loss.

Remember, there is help out there for hearing loss, tinnitus and communication behaviours. If you require any advice or suspect you have a hearing loss, please contact me or your GP to further discuss your symptoms.

Thanks to Chee Lai and Jessica Strutt for an insightful discussion on the impacts of hearing loss this morning on ABC Focus (Link here in to listen to the chat). Social isolation is another topic that needs to be focused on and one that I am passionate about bridging the gap for. 

Hears 2 ears, Kat Penno

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