Freelance tour guide Alex Wong did not realise he had the television turned on too loudly until his family started complaining.
The 67-year-old went for a $5 hearing test at a special mobile clinic at a Yuhua seniors' activity centre that he frequents for karaoke last month and found he had moderate hearing loss and needed a hearing aid, which he paid $169 for.
He was not the only one who failed to realise his hearing was impaired. About 500 residents in Bukit Panjang, Tampines West, Yuhua and Nee Soon Central have gone for subsidised hearing diagnostic tests in Mobile Hearing Clinics (MHCs) in the heartland since Dec 14. About 82 per cent of those screened suffer from some degree of hearing loss, with 70 per cent of them diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss that could progress in severity.
The National University Hospital will continue to partner the People's Association to screen 8,000 residents above the age of 40 over the next two years.
This $4.6 million programme, which started last December, was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Yuhua MP Grace Fu yesterday.
Ms Fu said that hearing loss could hasten the ageing process, and urged more residents to go for these screenings. "Sometimes hearing loss would result in isolation, loss of interaction with friends, and as a result, a diminishing social circle... it could lead to early onset of dementia and other psychological and physiological processes as well,"she said.
The screenings cost $5, with an additional $15 for those who need further evaluation. MHC's clinical adviser Lynne Lim said that not enough go for such screenings. "Only one in 10 who can be helped by hearing aids (use) them. This is a pity as fitting a hearing aid early rather than when the hearing loss is severe achieves better outcomes."
Hearing aids run from $1,800 to $3,200 and eligible residents can get at least 90 per cent off the price (capped at $2,700, or whichever is lower) through financial assistance from the Seniors' Mobility and Enabling Fund or the Health Services Development Programme fund.
There are currently two of such mobile clinics available. Each clinic is equipped with hearing test equipment and hearing aid fitting systems, and the screening service will be expanded in phases to serve more than 20 Community Centres or Residents' Committee Centres.
The MHC programme expects to fit more than 400 residents with hearing aids. Those who sign up for the screening will be part of a research project that aims to study the cost effectiveness of active screening for the public, and how hearing aids reduce the burden of diseases like depression and anxiety.
Mr Wong said going for the test has made a big difference. "Now I don't have to keep saying 'pardon me' at work and I can leave the TV volume low."
Residents can find out more details about the screening locations at www.nuh.com.sg/ent/ mobile-hearing-clinic.html