Hearing loss can result in a reduced capacity to communicate. The ability to listen and respond to words or sounds can be diminished with hearing loss, and with more severe losses, the ability to speak can also be impaired.
A reduced capability to communicate can impact on an individual’s education, employment and relationships, sometimes resulting in social isolation and a decreased quality of life. For children, hearing is critical to development of auditory skills (localising sounds and comprehending meaning of acoustic messages), speech and language. Hearing loss in children can impact on literacy, learning, education and later employment options.
The burden of disease or ‘loss of well being’ caused by a disease is measured internationally in terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Pain, suffering and premature mortality are measured on a scale where 0 = a year of perfect health and 1 = death. In 2005, hearing loss was shown to be the cause of 95,005 DALYs in Australia, making up 3.8% of the total burden of disease from ALL causes of disability and premature death in the country.
Comparison of DALYs across National Health priorities and hearing, 2005
Figure from Listen Hear! The Economic Impact and Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia. Access Economics. February 2006