Around 3.6 million Australians are affected by hearing loss, with more than a third (37 per cent) of cases being preventable, according to a report released yesterday by Hearing Care Industry Australia (HCIA).
The report projects that by 2060 the number of Australians with hearing loss will more than double to 7.8 million – equivalent to one in every five Australians.
The report highlights that hearing loss can lead to premature retirement, many sick days and a diminished capacity to work productively, as well as having a significant impact on an individual’s ability to socialise.
The majority of those affected by hearing loss are males, and by the age of 60, one in every two males in Australia will be impacted, compared to one in every three females.
The main form of preventable hearing loss in adults is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
The effect of noise is cumulative and can increase susceptibility to and accelerate hearing deterioration in later life, even after the exposure has ceased.
“The significant increase in the prevalence of hearing loss shown in this report raises challenges for the hearing care industry on how we can best support and mitigate the impact on the Australian population,” said HCIA Chairman, Ashley Wilson.
“Interventions are needed to minimise the impact of hearing loss, and HCIA has recommended the introduction of a free hearing screening program for people aged 50 years and over, which has the potential to prevent or delay hearing loss.”
Total health system spending on hearing loss in the financial year 2016/17 was estimated to be $881.5 million, or $245 per person with hearing loss.
ACT Fire and Rescue Commander Wayne Shaw, aged 59, has been suffering from tinnitus for the past 20 years and knows intimately the impact of hearing loss on a person’s ability to work and socialise.
“I don’t think people realise how much they rely on their hearing until it’s gone,” Mr Shaw said.
“Before I had my hearing tested, there were times I felt very isolated from my family and friends.
“Since having my hearing tested, I have not only extended my ability to work but my family life has improved, as my wife doesn’t have to repeat things anymore!”
Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the HCIA report was a valuable document highlighting challenges and opportunities for the government.
“I recognise the importance of safe-guarding hearing services to ensure that Australians continue to receive high quality care to manage their hearing loss,” Mr Wyatt said.
If you are concerned about your hearing, you can book a free hearing check with Australian Hearing.