Today is World Hearing Day – a time to promote better hearing healthcare and reflect on the global impact of hearing loss.
This year the World Health Organisation is focusing on actions and sound investments world-wide to reduce the economic impact of hearing loss – a condition that affects one in every six Australians, including some 80% of those over 75 years of age.
Australia is a world-leader in hearing research, devices, and clinical practice, as a direct result of Commonwealth and State Government support for the hearing healthcare industry, service provision and research. Since 1992, the Commonwealth Government and 21 member organisations have supported the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (HEARing CRC).
A few years ago, the HEARing CRC was responsible for initiating the Listen Hear! Report – a detailed analysis that identified the economic impact of hearing loss that is costing Australia $11.7billion each year, at least half of this is related to lost productivity of adults with hearing disability.
HEARing CRC CEO Professor Robert Cowan said since the release of Listen Hear!, the HEARing CRC and its member organisations have engaged in translational research and implementation to develop outcomes to directly address and reduce this economic burden.
“For example, our HEARsmart initiative, which is a collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), has real potential to reduce economic burden by prevention of needless hearing loss in Australian musicians, gig-goers, clubbers and sound engineers resulting from high exposure levels. HEARing CRC is working with music venues and organisations such as the Deafness Foundation and Music Victoria to promote healthy hearing to all Australians, especially young people,” Prof Cowan said.
“HEARing CRC works closely with its member Cochlear Limited, the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, on technologies that restore hearing to hundreds of thousands of children and adults around the world. This includes developments for the company’s Nucleus cochlear implant electrodes, such as a world-first study of a drug-eluting electrode array, new speech processing programs for tonal language speakers, and guidelines on candidature and evaluation for people with hearing loss. These are HEARing CRC initiatives used worldwide to support Cochlear.”
Again working with its member, NAL, and supported by the New South Wales Medical Devices Fund, HEARing CRC has developed HEARLab® – now used extensively in 140 Australian Hearing centres and worldwide to reduce the costs of detection of hearing loss and fitting of devices in infants or adults with hearing loss who cannot respond to traditional tests. Work with NAL has also led to NAL-NL2, licensed to all major hearing aid companies, and used to fit half of the world’s hearing aids.
“HEARing CRC is also training Australia’s next generation of professionals – with over 90 higher degree students completing studies through the Centre, and with provision of online continuing-development training for over 2,000 hearing healthcare professionals via HEARnet Learning®” Prof. Cowan explained
“The foresight of the Australian Commonwealth and NSW State Governments in supporting the establishment and activities of the HEARing CRC is a true ‘sound investment’ in reducing the economic impact of hearing loss for all Australians. As noted by the WHO, hearing loss remains one of the world’s most prevalent and costly disabilities, and continuing ‘sound investment’ through the work of the HEARing CRC is critical now and in the future.”
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