Facts about hearing and hearing loss
The generation most affected by hearing loss are the baby boomers
Hearing loss doesn’t just affect older people
Across the world, more than 1 billion people are affected by hearing loss. Most of us believe this problem only affects older adults. However in reality, it affects people across a range of ages.
Hearing loss in Australia
One in six Australians – or more than 3.6 million people currently live with a hearing loss. This figure is expected to more than double to 7.8 million in 2060, according to an Australian report.
As of 2017, 18.2% of Australian men and 10.9% of Australian women have a hearing loss. Of these people, 10.7% have a mild hearing loss, 2.7% have a moderate hearing loss and 1.1% have a severe loss.
In the report, hearing loss is defined as 25 dB or worse in the affected ear. If a hearing loss is defined as 25 dB on the worst ear, the figures are even higher. Where the prevalence of hearing loss rises to 19.1% (23% among men and 15.3% among women).
The report “The social and economic cost of hearing loss in Australia” was produced by Deloitte Access Economics and published by the Hearing Care Industry Association in Australia in June 2017.
Experts agree that the increase in hearing problems is due to the steady rise in environmental noise. From loud music at rock concerts and discos (during our younger years) to increased traffic noise, there are a lot of reasons why our hearing is getting worse.
This alarming trend appears to be even more severe among the children of baby boomers. Increased environmental noise and the widespread use of headphones have been blamed for this development.
Technology may have its positive results, but more noise isn’t one of them. The human ear can only take so much.
Did you know?
People with hearing loss often avoid other people’s company. Fortunately, modern hearing aids can be used during sport and other activities and means there’s no need to miss out on the things you love.
How you hear depends on where you are
Even though you might not notice, you experience a series of different listening situations every day. Wind and traffic can create significant noise outdoors. Even indoors, it’s almost never quiet when several people get together, not to mention the permanent background noise in a big office. Computers hum, phones ring and printers make repetitive sounds. The denser the “soundscape,” the harder it is to hear and understand speech – especially for people with hearing loss.
Hearing loss goes far beyond just making sounds seem softer. It also blurs sounds together, making it hard for you to capture what the other person is saying. The P, K, F, H, T, Th, Sh and S sounds are especially affected, which may limit speech comprehension. For example, when you go out to a restaurant, if people talk at once, it may be hard for you to follow the conversation.
Two ears work better than one
Hearing aids are typically fitted to both ears to treat hearing loss. Here are two reasons why:
1: Directional hearing
When you hear something, you usually know right away which direction the sound is coming from. This works because sound waves reach one ear a fraction of a second before the other. Your brain’s auditory response area uses this information to calculate direction. Spatial hearing – which experts call binaural hearing – is an important safety mechanism that warns you of dangers, such as approaching vehicles when crossing the street.
2: Sound quality
Sound quality improves when heard with two ears. Even for those without hearing loss, speech heard with only one ear may sound flat and emotionless.