Aug 2017 SBS The Australian

The number of Australians affected by hearing loss is expected to soar within the next 50 years at great cost to the economy.  Hearing Care Industry Australia has launched a report, developed by Deloitte Access Economics, on the social and economic cost of hearing loss in Australia. It estimates around 3.6 million Australians are currently affected by hearing loss, at a cost of $15.9 billion as a result of premature retirement and diminished productivity. By 2060, it's estimated one in five Australians, or 7.8 million, will be living with a hearing issue. At great risk are those aged 12 to 35, warns the report. It's estimated up to 50 per cent of young Australians are likely to develop hearing loss after five years of exposure to loud music. With more than a third of cases thought to be preventable, the report calls for the introduction of a free hearing screening program for people aged over 50.

"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's chairman, Mr Ashley Wilson. HCIA also recommends that the hearing aid voucher program be extended to people in low income groups including younger and older Australians. Mr Wilson said given there were two parliamentary inquiries on hearing it was important to provide the government with data. “Hearing has been off the radar in the heath sector and it has had a perception in the community that it is less important than other health issues,” Mr Wilson said. “This report shows it is significant and that the economic cost to the country is far greater than, I would say, the government has realised”.

The report highlights that hearing loss can lead to premature retirement, a greater number of sick days and a diminished capacity to work ­productively. It also will have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to socialise. The majority of those affected by hearing loss are males. By the age of 60, one in every two men in Australia will be affected, compared with one in three women. Mr Wilson said he wanted hearing elevated to national health priority status. He said there was a great history of hearing services geared towards children, an area in which Australia was considered “world-leading”. But there was a concern that those government-funded services were cut off when a person reached their late 20s. “It is that cohort in the middle who are not really supported and are at the most critical point in life where they want employment and need to maintain employment,” he said. “We would like to see an extension of the hearing services program to people in the middle age group, lower income earners in particular, so they are eligible for hearing care.”

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