The importance of increasing public awareness of hearing health has been highlighted by a new report by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research division of Hearing Australia, NAL announced.
The report “Making a Noise About Hearing: Factors to Consider When Developing Hearing Health Awareness Messages for Australians,” helps highlight the need for an awareness campaign and how it would help address long-standing systemic issues in the nation’s hearing health.
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“Hearing loss affects one in six Australians, a prevalence rate that is higher than most other national health priorities.¹ We know that most people live with hearing loss for around nine years before seeking help.² Part of this can be attributed to a lack of awareness about the impact hearing loss can have on a person’s quality of life together with a lack of knowledge about the treatment options available,” said Kim Terrell, managing director, Hearing Australia.
With an estimated 3.6 million Australians living with hearing loss³ and the fact that one-third of hearing loss is preventable,⁴ NAL’s new report is timed to assist the Australian Government to conduct a national campaign to raise public awareness of ear and hearing health.
The importance of such a campaign was highlighted in the 2019 Roadmap for Hearing Health with the Government announcing funding of $5 million (USD $3.64 million) for the campaign as part of the 2020 Federal Budget.
The NAL report was funded by the Government through the Department of Health and provides a comprehensive picture of hearing health in Australia, along with recommended hearing health awareness messages and strategies for seven key target groups within the Australian population.
Although people at any age can be affected by hearing loss, there are certain groups within the community that have particular needs when it comes to hearing, and these are given special attention in the report. For example, the report pays particular attention to farmers and people exposed to excessive workplace noise who are at risk of developing noise-related hearing loss.
It also sets out the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are particularly vulnerable to middle ear disease. The report also covers the importance of identifying hearing problems in young children as early as possible, and details why hearing health in older adults is critical for maintaining cognitive health and social well-being.
“Healthy hearing is important for healthy living and an important factor in quality of life at all ages. Many people suffer from hearing damage that could have been prevented, with 30% of permanent hearing loss in Australia preventable⁵. Awareness of the value of hearing and knowing about the potential risk factors that can damage hearing are the first steps towards taking action to preserve healthy hearing,” said Dr Brent Edwards, NAL Director.
Elizabeth Beach, head of behavioral sciences at NAL adds, “Australia has never had a national campaign aimed at raising awareness of hearing health, so we jumped at the opportunity to contribute our expertise towards shaping the new campaign. Not only will it shine a much-needed spotlight on hearing, a well-designed campaign has the potential to boost awareness of hearing health across all sectors of the community and bring about significant positive change.”
Tony Coles, the Chair of the Hearing Health Sector Alliance (HHSA), a body comprised of consumer groups, industry associations, professional associations, and research institutes, including NAL, welcomed the release of the NAL report.
“A hearing health awareness campaign has been one of the top priorities for the HHSA,” said Coles. “We are glad to see this release of NAL’s comprehensive report providing guidance on messaging for hearing health awareness, and believe the report will be of great value to the hearing health sector, including the Government’s $5 million initiative towards a national hearing health awareness campaign.”
¹ Access Economics, 2006.
² Simpson et al, 2019.
³ Hearing Australia Annual report 2018-2019.
⁴ Chia et al, 2007.
⁵ The Hearing Care Industry Australia (HCIA)
“Making a Noise About Hearing: Factors to Consider when Developing Hearing Health Awareness Messages for Australians” prepared by the National Acoustic Laboratories for the Department of Health, May 2020 / Revised September 2020 (Contributors Simon Alperstein, MSc, Research Scientist; Elizabeth Beach, PhD, Department Head, Behavioral Sciences; Megan Gilliver, PhD, Senior Research Scientist; Kiri Mealings, PhD, Research Scientist; Jermy Pang, MClinAud, MAudA, Research Audiologist with Dr Brent Edwards as Executive Sponsor).