World Hearing Day is observed on 3rd March every year and seeks to raise awareness about the prevention of hearing loss and promoting ear and hearing care. Each year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chooses a theme and develops advocacy materials which are then shared with civil society and governments around the globe.
This year, the theme will be “to hear for life, listen with care” and will focus on the importance of safe listening as a means of maintaining healthy hearing throughout the course of life. World Hearing Day will also mark the launch of the global standard for safe listening entertainment venues and the mSafeListening handbook. The main target groups will be owners and managers of entertainment venues and young people. The core messages for World Hearing Day are as follows:
- It is possible to maintain good hearing through ear and hearing care
- Many common causes of hearing loss can be prevented
- Safe listening can mitigate the risk of hearing loss associated with exposure to loud noises
- WHO calls upon governments, industry partners and civil society to implement standards and raise awareness for safe listening
Why is World Hearing Day so important?
Hearing loss is quickly becoming a global crisis.
In the UK alone, 11 million people (1 in 6) are affected by hearing loss. According to the British Academy of Audiology, 6.7 million could benefit from hearing aids, but only 2 million use them. As stated by WHO, there are 1.5 billion people living with hearing loss across the globe and this is expected to increase to 2.5 billion by 2050. Moreover, over 5% of the world’s population – or 430 million people – currently require rehabilitation to address their disabled hearing loss, and this is also expected to rise to 700 million (1 in 10) by 2050.
In 2021, WHO launched the World Report on Hearing (WRH) demonstrating the number of people living with/ at risk of hearing loss. It labels noise control as one of the seven chief H.E.A.R.I.N.G interventions and emphasises the importance of mitigating exposure to loud noises. The WRH conveyed the following messages:
- The number of people living with unaddressed hearing loss/ ear diseases must change
- Further action is required to prevent and address hearing loss
- Investing in cost-effective interventions will benefit those with hearing loss
- National health plans must integrate people-centred ear and hearing care (IPC-EHC)
What do I need to know about hearing loss?
- Over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices
- Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss that is greater than 35 decibels in the better hearing ear
- It is a global class crisis – nearly 80% of people with disabling hearing loss live in low- and middle- income countries
- Prevalence of hearing loss increases with age (more than 25% of over 60s are affected by disabling hearing loss)
Who is most at risk from hearing loss?
- Elderly people
- Those suffering from certain illnesses
- Those taking ototoxic medications
- Those suffering from a head injury
- Bar/nightclub owners and workers
- Those who regularly listen to loud music
- Those exposed to loud noise over prolonged periods
What are the risks of untreated hearing loss?
If hearing loss remains untreated, the brain must use more power to understand the world around it. This can result in cognitive decline because the structures and functions in the brain alter over time. Hearing loss has been strongly linked to dementia; various studies have found that mild hearing loss doubles dementia risk, moderate triples the risk, and those with severe hearing loss are five times at risk from developing dementia.
Trips and falls
Balance and hearing are directly connected because they share a common nerve pathway to the brain. People with untreated hearing loss must concentrate harder to interpret sound so they have fewer mental resources available for balance. They have a higher risk of falling than the general population, and the severer the hearing loss, the greater the risk.
Mental health conditions
Hearing loss is highly associated with feelings of grief, denial, and anger which can quickly develop into mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Those with untreated hearing loss tend to become less involved in social activities resulting in social isolation and withdrawal.
Social and economic impacts
WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 980 billion. This includes health sector costs (excluding the cost of hearing devices), costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs. 57% of these costs are attributed to low- and middle-income countries.
How can hearing loss be prevented?
- Identification and management of common ear conditions
- Occupational hearing conservation programmes for noise and chemical exposure
- Safe listening strategies for the reduction of exposure to loud sounds
- Rational use of medicines to prevent ototoxic hearing loss.
There is no better time to face up to hearing loss than on World Hearing Day.
At Hear4U, we offer a FREE hearing test to all our customers. Visit https://www.hear4u.co.uk/contact/ to book yours now.
Alternatively, for support on how to cope with hearing loss, why not check out Hearing Link, an association which provides assistance and guidance on how best to navigate the new challenges that hearing loss can bring.