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New research reveals Australians are putting their hearing healthcare on the back burner, ahead of this World Hearing Day

In the lead up to World Hearing Day on Sunday, 3rd of March, a recent survey reveals that only 2% of Australians prioritise their hearing over other health aspects such as physical health (52%), mental health (20%), eye care (10%), dental health (9%), and skin care (7%).* With an estimated 1 in 4 people worldwide predicted to be living with some degree of hearing loss by 20501, World Hearing Day is the ideal time for people to book a hearing screening.

Hearing loss costs Australians $11.75 billion annually in lost productivity and other impacts.2 While awareness exists, there is a significant gap in making hearing checks a priority, particularly for older Australians. While 77% of Australians know where to go to get their hearing tested, only 38% have undergone a hearing test in the last three years.

Gerald Quigley, Community Pharmacist for over fifty years comments, “Hearing deteriorates as we age, so hearing tests should be routinely part of every senior Australian’s annual health check-up – just as we make time to check our eyesight or our dental health each year. Research also suggests that there’s a link between untreated hearing loss and older Australian’s quality of life, affecting their memory, ability to think and focus. Overall, untreated hearing loss can significantly diminish an older Australian’s ability to engage in social activities, enjoy hobbies, and maintain their independence.”

“Typically, people dismiss hearing loss as an inevitable part of growing older,” Gerald adds. “Often, it’s their loved ones who notice the deterioration in their hearing before they do. In many cases, people don’t realise that when their hearing aids are no longer enough to hear clearly, they need to talk to their hearing healthcare professional about alternative hearing solutions. Hearing helps us communicate and socialise, but as a public health issue, hearing is not ranked as a national health priority, which is a missed health opportunity. Early diagnosis and treatment is important for improving quality of life outcomes for people living with hearing loss.”

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Caroline Reichard, a 62-year-old recently retired wife, mother, friend, and grandmother based in Port Stephens, New South Wales, faced a lifelong struggle with single-sided deafness. However, in her early forties, she encountered a decline in the hearing ability of her ‘good’ ear. She had adapted to her single-sided deafness by strategically positioning herself in social situations to maximise her ‘good’ ear’s hearing and became proficient at lip reading. As her hearing in her right ear began to deteriorate, Caroline found it increasingly challenging to hear clearly at her workplace. Eventually, at her husband’s persuasion, she consulted with an audiologist who provided her with a hearing aid. “This wasn’t just like opening one door to a world of hearing possibilities; it felt like unlocking 10,000 doors,” says Caroline.

Caroline now has a bimodal hearing solution, which means she has a hearing aid in her right ear and a cochlear implant in her left ear, which has enabled her to have 95% hearing in quiet listening environments. The most important thing for Caroline is that her ability to hear clearly has reconnected her to the sounds she cherishes. She can now hear every word her grandchildren utter, no longer missing precious moments or having to request explanations from her daughter. Improved hearing has had a significant positive impact on her social confidence, enabling her to meet friends at noisy cafés and restaurants without worrying in advance about where she will be seated, as she no longer relies on lip reading.

With the World Health Organization’s theme for World Hearing Day 2024 “Changing mindsets: Let’s make ear and hearing care a reality for all!”, it’s time for all older Australians to take control of their hearing healthcare.

To find a local clinic and book a hearing screening today, speak to your local health professional. To find out more about the importance of addressing any hearing loss, attend the free Starts at 60 online masterclass sponsored by Cochlear on Monday 11 March:

Image by DC Studio on Freepik.

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