March 3rd is World Hearing Day, founded by the World Health Organization to raise awareness and advocacy for people with hearing disabilities. There are currently 466 million people worldwide affected by hearing loss and this number is expected to rise to 900 million by 2050. This jarring number illuminates the growing threat of hearing loss for people of all ages, not just the elderly. The theme for 2021’s World Hearing Day is “Hearing Care For All! Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate” which focuses on Hearing Loss on a Policy level as well on individual education around hearing care and prevention.
The Financial Cost of Hearing Loss on Society
With approximately 15 percent of the world’s population dealing with some degree of hearing loss, there is unfortunately not enough infrastructure to create access and affordability around hearing treatments. The most common and successful treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which amplify lost sounds making them more audible for the listener. However, these tiny and important devices cost on average $1000-$4000 and in most countries, they are not covered by insurance.
In the US, this is due to insurance companies claiming hearing aids to be elective. This leaves millions with untreated hearing loss. This is not only a hearing issue but ultimately a communication issue, affecting education and fewer job opportunities. Unless suitable care is made available, exclusion from communication, due to untreated hearing loss easily leads to loneliness, and chronic depression, which in turns leads to many chronic and fatal health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cognitive decline.
Advocating for National Coverage
The cost of healthcare due to untreated hearing loss is estimated to be between $67–107 billion. This does not include the cost of providing hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants which could ultimately prevent many chronic conditions. In the workplace communication issues due to untreated hearing loss have been estimated to affect individual’s earnings at approximately 105 billion each year. In the US it is estimated that a person with untreated hearing loss generally makes 12,000 less each year in comparison to co-workers with healthy or treated hearing. If hearing care was made accessible to all citizens there would be less communication issues at work, home and school which is not just an emotional health issue, but a mental and physical health issue as well.
Good Hearing and Communication Are Important in All Stages of Life
While hearing loss is commonly thought of as an issue affecting an older generation, this is no longer the normal. One in three over the age of 65 and half of those over 75 years old deal with hearing loss. This is a concern for older Americans, as the baby boomer generation enters this age bracket. Even so, hearing loss is affecting more and more people of all ages. Some of these hearing conditions begin at birth but on average the greatest number of cases of hearing loss are due to injuries incurred throughout life. Our world is continually growing noisier, in our cities, streets, homes and in the media we consume. Thanks to an endless streaming of music, talk radio, video games and movies available on the world wide web, the decibel level a younger generation is exposed to can cause irreversible damage to their ears, via personal listening devices. Educating people about the risks of listening and understanding how to protect your ears preemptively can prevent early hearing loss.
Screening for Hearing Loss
Most alarming is that many won’t realize they have a hearing loss until they struggle to hear even in the most controlled and quiet of listening environments. Often it is a loved one or co-worker who will recognize a hearing loss before you self-diagnose. This is because hearing loss is progressive, slowly diminishing hearing ability over time.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to seek treatment! Make sure to screen for hearing loss annually so you can catch a hearing loss early and seek treatment. And why not use World Hearing Day as a reason to better your hearing health? Contact us today to schedule a consultation.