A loss of hearing can lead to isolation and have profound social and economic consequences for individuals, and society.
One in six Australians suffer from some degree of hearing loss. By 2050, this will increase to one in four.
Although the increasing prevalence of hearing loss is driven by our ageing population, over one third of all people acquire their hearing impairment through preventable means.
The ability to communicate with others is fundamental to participation in work, education and social activities, and the community at large. A loss of hearing fundamentally changes the ability of a person to communicate and thus limits the way they are able to interact with society. This can lead to isolation, and can have profound social and economic consequences.
Hearing problems touch the lives of many Australians, however hearing health is not ranked as a national health priority.
Australia is one of the better providers of reimbursed hearing services to its elderly population, and the program offered by the Department of Health and Ageing has expanded substantially over the last decade. However, in relation to hearing healthcare globally, Australia is not leading the way.
The average age of people accessing hearing services under the Commonwealth Government scheme is 79 years, yet half the people with hearing loss are under the age of 65 years of age.
Only one in four people who could benefit from a hearing aid have one and there is an average of seven years between a person needing help with hearing and actually seeking help.
The impact of hearing loss in Australia on Australian workers
A report published by Access Economics in 2006 found the following;
- In 2005, over 3.55m Australians suffered from hearing loss and nearly half of them were of working age (16-64 years).
- Employment rates for hearing impaired people between the ages of 45 and 65 are lower than for comparable people in the rest of the population (20.5% lower for men and 16.5% lower for women).
- The real financial cost of hearing loss was $11.75b (or 1.4% of GDP) – the largest component of this being productivity loss ($6.7b).
- The total economic cost of hearing loss per annum is $23b. n $62 per person is spent for hearing loss per annum as compared with $10,904 per person with cancer or $42,064 per person with mental illness.
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