Clinical Professor Catherine Birman, Medical Director of the NextSense Cochlear Implant Program and one of Australia’s leading ENT surgeons, said the links between hearing loss and the health and wellbeing of older Australians is not sufficiently recognised.
Speaking on World Hearing Day (Friday 3 March), Clinical Professor Birman said hearing loss is a widespread disability among older Australians that can lead to significant complications.
“Older Australians experiencing hearing loss should seek professional assessment and help as soon as they can to allow for the best possible treatment outcomes,” Professor Birman said.
“More than two-thirds of people over 70 years old suffer hearing loss in some form and that percentage rises as age increases.
"People often wait 10 years or more before they reach out for help with their hearing loss. Hearing loss can be linked with social isolation and loneliness, anxiety and depression.”
Professor Birman, who has conducted more than 1800 cochlear implant operations, said most severe or profound hearing loss can be helped with a cochlear implant.
Treatments for hearing loss may range from behavioural changes to technology such as hearing aids, TV streamers and Bluetooth connection to phones to cochlear implants.
“Many older Australians have a false impression that cochlear implants are only intended for children who are born with hearing impairment.
“However, that is not the case. Older Australians who are suitable for cochlear implants can often transform their lives through clearer and more accurate hearing, as well as better then enjoying social connections and interactions. It can make a profound difference to their quality of life.”
- Around 3.6 million people live with some level of hearing loss.
- More than 1 in 3 Australians have noise-related ear damage.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a much higher rate of ear disease than other children, which can result in hearing loss.
- The number of people with a hearing impairment is expected to double to an estimated 7.8 million people by 2060.