Hidden hearing loss will hit baby boomers
Up to 26,000 Australians may be unnecessarily living in silence because they have an undetected hearing loss, a collaborative research review carried out by Australian cochlear implant professionals has found.
The Cochlear Implantation in Older Adults paper compiled by Dr Tanya Drinkwater is a review that has been undertaken by cochlear implant professionals in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The paper has found that hearing loss in adults aged over 55 can have a devastating impact. “The ongoing effects of having a hearing loss can manifest differently for different older adults,” Dr Drinkwater said. “Those at the lower end of the age range may be forced to stop work prematurely and the personal impact on both finances and self-esteem is enormous." “The cost to the community is also significant – a full disability support pension can cost in excess of $10,000 per annum.” “A major problem is the impact of a hearing loss on their participation in community and family life, and on their ability to communicate with others.”
The review paper, incorporating major studies carried out in recent years, was launched as a part of Hearing Awareness Week 2003 (August 24 to 30).
Dr Drinkwater said up to 26,000 Australians aged over 65 could receive the life-changing benefits of a cochlear implant, but so far only 850 people have the device.
A cochlear implant is designed to allow people with severe to profound hearing loss to perceive sound. “According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the elderly group is the fastest growing segment of the population, and the number of those aged over 65 is projected to double its size by 2051,” Dr Drinkwater said. “The number of potential implant candidates will, therefore, increase dramatically in coming years.” Dr Drinkwater said hearing loss had traditionally been under-diagnosed by the medical profession. “Many adults are reluctant to admit that they have a hearing loss; either because of the stigma they feel is attached to the condition, or because they wrongly think nothing can be done to help them,” she said.
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