Unaddressed hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline and evidence suggests that it can contribute to social isolation, loss of autonomy, depression and dementia, particularly in older adults. Ear disease and hearing loss can impact on development, ability to communicate, education, social wellbeing and economic independence. Children with hearing loss and children who are deaf need access to early interventions to ensure the development of language and communication skills.
Early identification followed by prompt and appropriate management can effectively reduce the impact of hearing loss on the life of an individual and begin the path to equitable communication. Neonatal and infant hearing screening programs are an effective strategy for early intervention in cases of congenital and early onset hearing loss.
A person-centred approach to detection, diagnosis and possible responses is important to ensure the impact of hearing loss on individuals is minimised. There are significant costs associated with the impacts of unaddressed hearing loss, including costs to health, education and employment sectors and lost productivity.
A lack of recognition and effective management of hearing loss and balance disorders in aged care services is a concern. There is a need to foster the independence and well-being of deaf and hard of hearing older Australians.
Outcomes for better hearing in Australia.
- Australians who may have hearing impairment or a balance disorder are recognised promptly by their primary health care, early childhood, education or aged care services, and referred appropriately.
- Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) and linked diagnostic and habilitative services continue, and the feasibility of a national, life-long hearing database and reporting is evaluated.
- Australian children, particularly those post-newborn to under four years, in regional, remote and low-socioeconomic urban areas, are able to access a state-funded diagnostic audiology service within one month of referral.
- A single, independent, national point of referral for children post early-identification of hearing challenges is maintained.
- Child and adult screening programs are undertaken in a high quality and consistent manner, with data collated in a timely manner and made available to the participants and for wider research.
- Screening programs and government-funded diagnostic hearing services specifically consider the needs and circumstances of vulnerable populations, and are monitored and resourced accordingly.
- Prison inmates with unaddressed hearing loss or ear disease are identified and are connected with the ear health and hearing services necessary for participation and rehabilitation.
- Hearing health requirements are considered holistically and included in other relevant measures such as public health and other regulatory frameworks.