March 3 has been declared World Hearing Day by WHO in response to the mounting economic costs of hearing loss in the community. WHO estimates that over US$750 billion is lost from the global economy annually due to hearing loss. In Australia the estimate is $11.75 billion.
Grant Collins, Principal Audiologist and owner of local audiology clinic Clarity Hearing Solutions, says we should be concerned about these numbers.
“In Australia 1 in 6 people is affected in some way by hearing loss and that number is growing,” Mr Collins said.
Mr Collins is particularly concerned about future generations who will experience a greater rate of hearing loss.
“This generation and the next have grown up going to loud concerts and listening to loud music via headphones. In the past people would be affected if they worked in a noisy environment for a long time and the disorder was named industrial deafness,” Mr Collins said.
“Now we are seeing more and more people, younger and younger, presenting with industrial deafness, but acquired from exposure to lifestyle noise, not industrial noise,” he continued.
The biggest contributor to the economic cost of hearing loss comes from lost productivity in the workplace with higher unemployment rates in people over 45 with hearing loss.
Research has also found that people with hearing loss earn, on average, less money where average weekly incomes vary based on a person’s capacity to hear.
Mr Collins supports WHO’s call for education and prevention and their call for increased support for diagnosis and treatment.
“Research has shown that it’s better economically to prevent, diagnose and treat hearing loss than to ignore it. By identifying the loss earlier and treating it appropriately, we keep people productive for longer. There’s also much less impact on the health system and on society,” Mr Collins stated.
“The societal costs cannot but understated, with some people affected by hearing disorders suffering from depression and cutting themselves off from society.”
Mr Collins urged anyone suspecting they are suffering from hearing loss get a professional assessment as a matter of urgency.
“The sooner we catch the hearing loss, the sooner we can commence rehabilitation and lessen the long-term impact of the disorder,” he said.
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