Hearing loss: the costs, the effect on society and how to prevent it
Ears, Nose & Throat More than 5% of the world’s population — 360 million people — has disabling hearing loss. Unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of £580 billion.
Causes of disabling hearing loss include infection, noise, genetics, head trauma and medications that are harmful to hearing. Hearing loss may exist from birth, but, incidences are higher among older adults.
"Undetected or untreated hearing loss can negatively affect health and well-being."
Even mild hearing loss doubles the chance of developing dementia. Hearing loss is also twice as common in people with diabetes and can affect cardiovascular health.
In young children hearing loss can impair speech and language, academic achievement and social and emotional development. Early detection through newborn screenings and early intervention can prevent these conditions.
Hearing loss – the costs
Unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of £580 billion. Costs stem from the health sector, educational support, from loss of productivity and societal costs. Adults with untreated hearing loss have a much higher unemployment rate compared with their typical-hearing peers.
The most preventable cause of hearing loss is noise from sudden, loud sounds or chronic, elevated volumes. The louder the volume, the shorter the duration for safe listening.
If you have to shout to be heard, it is likely too loud. Aim for a max of 85 decibels, (decibel meters are available as smartphone apps) and then 'walk, block, and turn': walk away from the sound source, block your ears using earplugs, and turn down the volume.
Laura Friedman is Communications and Programs Manager, Hearing Health Foundation