The impact and side-effects of hearing loss upon suffers 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 domestically, forecasting up to 1 in 4 people in the Australian population with a hearing loss by 2061.
GPs and medical practitioners have previously been referred to as "the gatekeepers" of hearing treatment: although about a third of people over 50 had sought help from their GP for hearing loss, only 50 per cent of these people were referred on for treatment.
Untreated hearing loss can have a major impact 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 dementia is of particular concern, with studies showing increases in 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. Untreated hearing loss may contribute to decline in cognitive function and all-incident dementia.
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.