The impact of hearing loss upon sufferers is an area of common interest across the globe.
The condition is now one of the world's most widespread health conditions, with WHO estimating a disabling hearing loss in more than 320 million people globally. Access Economics has predicted further increases in the condition within Australia, forecasting up to 1 in 4 people with a hearing loss in our population by 2061.
Left untreated, hearing loss can have major impacts on a patient’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, including:
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Lowered self-esteem
- Reduced employment opportunities and earning potential
- Increased rates of anxiety and depression
- Affective mood disorders
- Poor mental health
- Lower life expectancy
The association between hearing loss and cognititve decline is of particular concern, with trends showing general increases individual hearing loss and dementia rates - as well as increases in the costs of these disabilities to the community. Studies have further shown that hearing loss both predicts and accelerates cognitive decline and dementia, and a clear association between hearing loss and reduced cognitive performance has been established. Ear Science Instittue Australia is actively researching whether treating hearing loss using hearing aids or hearing implants will have a positive impact on cognitive functions of adults and help slow the cognitive decline.
Currently the combined cost of hearing loss and dementia to the Australian economy is over $16.2 billion per year, and with increasing prevalence, is certain to rise.
The repercussions of untreated hearing loss can be serious. GPs and health professionals are encouraged to refer patients to the Ear Science Clinic to limit the impacts this condition can cause - both to the individual and to the wider community.