“Prevention is better than cure.” – Desiderius Erasmus.
Goal 2: PREVENTION.
Prevention is the foundation of good health. Our second goal is to reduce the risk of acquiring hearing loss, tinnitus and related ear and balance disorders.
Hearing loss prevention involves taking proactive measures to protect and maintain health hearing throughout life. Exposure to loud noise causes one-third of hearing loss in adulthood. Exposure to certain medical conditions and medications can contribute to ear and balance disorders.
Hearing loss can be gradual and may not be immediately noticed or even diagnosed Individuals can proactively manage their hearing health, but we also need to move away from the stigma of blaming the individual to a community awareness approach to encourage proactive prevention strategies.
1. Teenagers/young adults exposed to recreational noise.
Throughout the world, nearly 50% of people aged 12–35 years of age – that’s 1.1 billion young people – are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud sounds, through listening to music on smartphones and audio players, or at music gigs and clubs. Here in Australia, nearly 50% of young people are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices. Around 40% of 12–35 year-olds are exposed to damaging sound levels at clubs and bars.
Practicing safe listening is one of the simplest ways to prevent hearing loss that is caused by recreational exposure to loud sounds.
Successfully communicating with young people involves understanding there are variations in the engagement they have with their hearing health and counteracting misplaced optimism they might have about their personal risk. Ways to motivate young people to reduce their exposure to noise can include focussing on consequences that are immediate and tangible, such as tinnitus, and highlighting the impacts of noise exposure for life-long listening. Practical strategies and technology tools will help young people to understand and manage their noise exposure. *
2. People exposed to occupational noise.
Occupational hearing loss represents a very significant social and economic burden for Australia. Nationally, an estimated 1 million employees in Australia may be potentially exposed to hazardous levels of noise at work. Noise exposure is the commonest preventable cause of occupational hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs in a wide range of industries, particularly mining, manufacturing and construction, farming, recreation, hospitality and the Defence Force. Programs of work are underway to help reduce work-related noise-induced hearing loss in Australia, with various jurisdictions undertaking or planning a significant amount of work in inspections and auditing, targeting highest-risk sectors. Strategies to reduce noise exposure for this group can focus on systemic workplace changes to reduce sound levels, make use of technology to monitor exposure, and ensure that at-risk workers’ hearing is monitored on a regular basis.
For employees, the focus should be on consistent use of protective equipment, and challenging the concept of loss acceptance that can lead to complacency and inaction in relation to hearing health. *
Hearing loss in the workplace can also result from injuries and chemicals. Industrial solvents can be ototoxic – they have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerve supply – and their effect can continue beyond the time of exposure. Yet ototoxic monitoring for workers exposed to these chemicals is limited.
3. Farming and agriculture in particular.
Noise-induced hearing loss is highly prevalent in farming communities among the workers and their families who share their sometimes noisy environments. Messages for farmers aim to motivate them to reduce noise exposure while also encouraging those with hearing loss to engage with hearing help. Choosing quieter farm machinery, wearing appropriate hearing protection, safely storing and using farm chemicals, and making use of technology are important actions. Raising awareness of the impacts of hearing loss and the consequent communication challenges is also essential to encourage their engagement. And in communicating with farming communities we should take into account the farming context and widespread stoicism. *
Outcomes for better hearing in Australia.
- Preventable hearing loss is significantly reduced.
- Australians’ understanding, motivation and ability to prevent loss of their own and others’ hearing is substantially increased.
- Primary health care services are able to provide regular ear and hearing health checks that respond to the social and cultural needs of those receiving care.
- The process of implementing effective noise control and hearing loss prevention in Australian workplaces is completed.
- Strategies preventing hearing loss and its disabling effects are incorporated in urban design.
- Strategies to prevent hearing loss are included in wider public policy.
- Prevention activities specifically consider the needs and circumstances of vulnerable populations, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and are monitored and resourced accordingly.
Taken from Australia’s Roadmap for Hearing Health.
* From Children with hearing loss and children who are deaf need access to early interventions to ensure the development of language and communication skills.