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Friday, December 1, 2023

Australians still aren’t ‘listening’: calls for hearing health to be prioritised falling on deaf ears

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In the lead up to World Hearing Day tomorrow, a recent survey reveals Australians are putting their hearing health last, with only 1 per cent of people prioritising their hearing above other areas of health, including physical (56 per cent), mental (26 per cent), dental (8 per cent), gut (5 per cent) and skin (3 per cent).

Unidentified hearing loss can impact a person’s quality of life, including their relationships, access to education, employment and communication.

While the COVID-19 global pandemic has forced many Australians to delay important healthcare check-ups, only four in ten Australians have had a hearing screening in the last three years.

With an estimated one in four people worldwide predicted to be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, World Hearing Day is the ideal time for people to book a hearing screening.

“One 30-minute hearing screening can establish a baseline for your hearing, so that you can identify any risk factors, address changes early, prevent further damage and seek hearing solutions – including cochlear implants when hearing aids are no longer enough,” Cochlear Ambassador and former Australian cricketer, Brett Lee, says.

“One in six Australians experience hearing loss.

“We need to remember that hearing loss can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

“If you or someone you love struggle to hear on the phone, or in a noisy cafe or ask others to repeat themselves, then you should get your hearing tested,” Lee adds.

“There is some good news however in that 77 per cent of Australians know where to get their hearing tested.”

Emma Ramsay, director of Clinical Affairs, Cochlear ANZ, says prioritising our hearing is so important.

“It’s the key to how we connect with others and continue to engage in all the activities we love doing like catching up with friends, playing sport and enjoying time with family,” she says.

“No Australian would ever not get their eyes tested if they couldn’t see, and it’s just as important to prioritise your hearing health.

“I would suggest finding a reputable audiologist in your suburb, town or city and booking an appointment as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, a new global survey has revealed the importance of diagnosing and managing hearing loss if we want happier and healthier lives.

Research of 24,000 people from 14 countries by high street hearing specialist, Audika, and international research group, YouGov, examined the health and happiness of hearing aid wearers and non-hearing aid wearers, pre- and post-testing.

Life-changing hearing

The survey revealed 37 per cent Australian hearing aid wearers are happier than before diagnosis.

And the impact of a diagnosis can be transformative; nearly 1 in 5 hearing aid wearers report a ‘life-changing’ difference.

Significantly, the findings suggest that hearing loss is more widespread than we might think – with almost half of Australians (43 per cent) thinking that they have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is also one of Australians’ biggest worries when it comes to ageing (43 per cent) – after forgetfulness (57 per cent) and frailty (44 per cent) – but ahead of loss of sight (32 per cent)1.

Despite all of this, the survey shows Australians are not taking action to look after their hearing, with only one in five planning a hearing test in the next 12 months – compared to 39 per cent who intend to get an eye test in the same period1. 

Furthermore, Australians’ top health concern is memory loss/dementia (70 per cent), yet 83 per cent are unaware of the associated risk between hearing loss and dementia.

Treating hearing loss early, before or in mid-life, is one of 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia as recognised by a landmark 2020 study in The Lancet.

Nimi Naran, head of Medical Services at Audika (Australia & New Zealand), says hearing loss shouldn’t be about ageing.

“The results indicate that those who sought help for their hearing reported being happier, leading healthier lives, and had more fulfilling relationships.

“By contrast, the Lancet study highlights the risks associated with hearing loss on one’s cognitive health.”

Love your ears, Love life

The research showed the impact that treating hearing loss can have on relationships.

While many Australian hearing aid wearers (39 per cent) would previously pretend to hear better than they could, since treating their hearing loss, nearly half (48 per cent) now report having better conversations.

“The upsides are clear – those in the research sample fitted with a hearing aid reported many improvements in relationships and communication with their family,” Naran says.

“Over a third feel more connected to their family and say there is less stress on their relationship.”

By 2050, 1 in 4 people worldwide will be living with hearing loss, and as many as a third will be undiagnosed and untreated.

“We need to be kinder to our ears, because you can reduce your risk of hearing loss,” Naran says.

“Turn your headphones down, wear ear protection when directed, get tested regularly and from an earlier age.

“’Love your ears’ means taking a proactive approach to your hearing.”

For the World Health Organisation’s World Hearing Day (3 March 2022), Audika is encouraging all to ‘Love your ears’, and take a free online hearing check for an immediate insight into your hearing status.

Lauren McNee, Clinical Trainer at Audika (Australia) says there’s no time like the present to act on your hearing.

“We must take our hearing loss more seriously, and there are accessible ways to stay more in control of your hearing health,” she says.

“Taking a free hearing check and wearing hearing aids can help you listen better, feel more connected and improve your quality of life.

“Audika’s five-minute online hearing check can help provide an immediate insight into how well you hear.”

Audika hearing checks are free to all Australians over the age of 26.

You can also visit Hearing Australia or Cochlear Australia for more hearing advice and information.

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