Did you know that this week is Hearing Awareness Week in Australia? Hearing Awareness Week has been around for a several years and takes place in August?
Unfortunately hearing impairment has a stigma attached and often people who are affected will hide the symptoms as long as is possible. In addition, awareness about the impact of hearing impairment is much too low and here is why we should take more notice:
The facts about hearing impairment
It is estimated that 360 million people suffer of hearing loss worldwide and only 10-20% of people who could benefit from a hearing aid are wearing one.
Causes of hearing impairment
One of the major concerns causing hearing loss – one which in many cases we can control – is loud noise.
Loud noise can cause irreversible hearing damage, because it harms the delicate hearing mechanism in the inner ear.
“Noisy occupations were always a common cause of hearing problems, but nowadays it’s also recreational noise, especially from personal music players and noisy clubs and concerts. That’s why hearing loss is increasingly affecting younger people,” David Brady, CEO, Hear For You, said.
Another major cause of hearing loss is the natural ageing process. Over half the population aged between 60 and 70 have a hearing loss.
An estimated 3.5 million Australians – half of whom are of a working age - are affected to varying degrees.
(Quote: Hearing Awareness Week’s website)
This means that in Australia approximately 1.75 million people of working age have some degree of hearing impairment.
The impact of hearing impairment on employment opportunities
If you are between 45 and 65 and have hearing loss, your chances of being employed are 20% lower if you are a man and 16% lower if you are a woman.
Every day, hearing-impaired Australians are being disadvantaged – they either cannot get employment or have difficulty keeping it.
(Quotes: Hearing Care Industry Association’s Future Opportunity paper 2014)
Accessibility of hearing aids
Technology has advanced enormously and there are many different type of sophisticated hearing aids available. But affordability is an issue. Currently only young people under the age of 26 or adults on an age, disability or veteran’s pension have access to Government assistance in Australia. Working age Australians on low incomes have to fund their own hearing aids to remain competitive at work and are in danger of dropping out of the workforce if they experience hearing loss.
Raising awareness about hearing impairment
Given that the number of people affected by hearing loss is on the increase and that they are getting younger, we need to raise awareness of this growing problem and ensure we do whatever we can to:
- prevent hearing -impairment where we can control the causes and
- assist those who are affected to participate fully in every day life, primarily by providing affordable access to aids.
In other words, we need to see a social marketing campaign along the lines of those for other important health issues. Today, it is completely normal for us to wear a seat-belt while driving as a result of a public awareness campaign.
I look forward to receiving your feedback!
PS There is no shortage of information about the issue and many good fact sheets. Here is some further reading and interesting links if you want to find out more:
Australian Hearing Awareness Week website
Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA) Future Opportunities paper August 2014
Hearing Aid Bank for working age Australians
Note: I need to declare my interest in HCIA. I currently work for HCIA as a social media consultant.
Ms Ulrike Schuermann is an experienced international consultant & social profit coach. Her main areas of interest are social marketing – media, social investments, income development for social profits; sustainable development and business and human rights. She regularly facilitates workshops for social profit organisations and corporations and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org