A burden of £640.7 billion. This is the economic impact of unaddressed hearing loss, which in a year reaches the same amount as the GDP of a country like the Netherlands, or the combined health expenditure of Brazil and China.
Excluding people with hearing difficulties can cost the UK over £18.8 billion each year, and €178 billion for the European Union.
“It is an enormous amount of wasted resources, which is quite impressive, but not surprising,” explains Barry Downes, professional services manager at Amplifon, an international hearing solutions company.
“Hearing well plays a vital role throughout people’s entire life and ignoring any hearing loss can have a great social, and therefore, economic impact. For instance, hearing difficulties make it hard to communicate and can increase isolation and depression, even leading to greater use of antidepressant drugs,” he adds.
According to Downes, monitoring hearing health in the workforce is crucial. Unaddressed hearing loss is associated with an increase in the risk of isolation and depression which, in people who do not hear well, is twice as high than in those who have no hearing difficulties. It also suggests an increased probability of having some cognitive decline, which can be up to five times higher in cases of profound hearing loss.
The effects of hearing loss at school or at work should not be underestimated due to its negative influence on performance which may even lead to early retirement in some cases, says Downes. “In addition to that, hearing difficulties can accelerate, mainly in older people, the onset of cognitive decline and increase the risk of falling.”
An answer to staying on top of unaddressed hearing loss is periodic hearing tests for early diagnosis and intervention. In more than six out of ten cases, hearing loss could be avoided if adequate prevention was put in place. Consequently, education initiatives are necessary in schools in order to produce the right level of awareness of a correct “sound ecology”.
A checklist for hearing health
- Hearing screening for all adults over 40 years of age should become routine to identify any hearing loss at its very beginning.
- Spreading information and raising awareness on hearing health in schools in order to educate children to protect their hearing.
- Testing hearing ability at least once a year.
- Taking action with the appropriate hearing solution, having the solution customised for all types and degrees of hearing loss.
- Promote the importance of a quality service and multidisciplinary approach to hearing loss as it is associated with other health issues such as depression, diabetes, cognitive decline and risk of falling.