A critical initiative is underway to address the rising levels of hearing loss in New Zealand.
A coalition of hearing loss advocates, led by National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDHH), is lobbying the New Zealand Government to partner in a public health programme to combat the prevalence of hearing loss and its impact on almost one million Kiwis.
New Zealand was the first country to unveil the first-ever World Hearing Report on World Hearing Day today[subs: March3], in a virtual launch hosted at Parliament by Minister for Health, Hon Andrew Little and Minister for Disability Issues, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, in conjunction with NFDHH, its member groups and the Eisdell Moore Centre.
Speaking via video link from Switzerland, World Health Organisation’s Dr Shelly Chadha revealed that by 2050, those living with some degree of hearing loss is likely increase 1.5 times-fold, and that will see more than 2.5 billion people living with some degree of hearing loss. More than one billion young people are at risk of preventable hearing loss.
“Identification is the first step into addressing hearing loss and related ear diseases. Systematic screening at various age points will ensure that these conditions can be identified at the earliest possible stage,” Dr Chadha says. “We are facing a health crisis, and early intervention is key.”
The report estimates the cost of providing suitable hearing health care in the next 30 years is $1.33US ($1.75 NZ approx) per person – and it will equate to a return of $16 for every $1 invested.
NFDHH Chief Executive Natasha Gallardo says the coalition, made up of 10 hearing sector groups, has developed a Public Health Programme that includes prevention and intervention strategies, and is calling on Government to partner with them.
“Immediate action is vital. We are fast approaching one million people in New Zealand with some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss has enormous impacts on individuals and the Deaf and hard of hearing community, manifesting itself in poor education, unemployment and mental health outcomes.
“This affects all ages. We are seeing a dramatic rise in abnormal hearing results in teenagers, and international research shows that hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor against dementia in midlife. It is crucial that we initiate local programmes so we have a better understanding of the impact of hearing loss in New Zealand, while ensuring the members of our Deaf and hard of hearing community have appropriate support.
“The Deaf and hard of hearing community requires those support services to ensure they can live to their fullest potential, irrespective of age or ethnicity. We know, for example, that Māori/Pasifika have higher rates of hearing loss and less access to hearing treatment than other New Zealanders.”
The Public Health Programme’s key objectives are:
· Accessibility: Securing funding to support universal and equitable access to services, technology and hearing health care, to reduce inequities
· Early identification and intervention: Development and implementation of nation-wide hearing screening programmes across various age points
· Prevention and education: Addressing preventable hearing loss as a public health priority; instigating Youth (non-occupational noise-induced hearing loss), and, Workplace (noise-induced hearing loss) Programmes
· Public awareness: Greater public awareness of challenges affecting the Deaf and hard of hearing community and the required public health intervention.
The World Hearing Report highlighted that identification is the first step in addressing hearing loss. WHO estimates one billion 12-35 year olds are at risk of hearing loss, largely due to preventative causes such as prolonged use of personal devices including mobile phones and earbuds, at high volumes.
NFDHH is conducting a screening pilot of Year 9 students across a range of New Zealand schools. In a report from Deloitte on the 2020 data it was revealed that of the 811 students 36% of those tested were classified as “higher risk” due to listening to loud music for extended periods. Thirty four percent of students had compromised hearing.
“The isolating nature of hearing loss can create communication and language barriers leading to mental health issues,” Gallardo says.
“Early diagnosis and intervention, alongside education, should be viewed as an early, upfront investment that will help reduce a significant cost to health sector and community if left unchecked.”
World Health Organisation World Hearing Report 2021:
· By 2050 nearly 2.5 billion people around the world will be living with some degree of hearing loss, and 700 million of those will require rehabilitation services
· At the current rate of prevalence, nearly $1 trillion international dollars are lost annually from unaddressed hearing loss
· The cost of providing suitable hearing health care in the next 30 years is estimated to be $1.33US ($1.74 NZ) per person – and every $1 invested now will equate to $16 in 30 year’s time
· The number of people with hearing loss may increase more than 1.5-fold during the next three decades, with over 700 million likely to experience a moderate or higher level of hearing loss
· Of those who could benefit from a hearing aid, only 17% actually use one
· An aim of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is that all people with hearing loss and ear diseases have access to high-quality services without experiencing financial hardship
Lancet Commission in 2020:
· Hearing loss is the largest modifiable risk factor against dementia
· Mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia, moderate hearing loss triples the risk
· The heightened risk is possibly due to lowered mental stimulation, isolation and ultimately cognitive decline
Deloitte Access Report 2020, commissioned by NFDHH revealed:
· 2020 pilot screening programme of 881 year 9 students from 8 schools across New Zealand
· 34% at higher risk of hearing loss
· 35% listen to devices for three or more house a day, 18% listen for four or more hours
· 67% listen through earbuds, not over-the-ear headphones
· Nearly one third have experienced ringing in the ears
· The prevalence of youth hearing loss is estimated to affect 15,000 students
· Youth hearing loss costs the NZ economy an estimated $957m, including $132m to the health system and $552 in productivity losses
About the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing: For more than 40 yearsNFDHH has been helping thousands of New Zealanders reconnect and live to their full potential. It advocates for vital services and support for people living with a hearing loss and offers guidance to ensure people with a hearing loss are recognised and have access to the tools and services they require. For more information go to: nfd.org.nz
Prepared by Hayley McLarin, Compelling PR, on behalf of the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. For more information e: email@example.com or call +64275591172
 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext  New Zealand Deafness Notification Database covering periods 1982-2005 and 2009-2012 that shows Maori have more bilateral hearing loss, compared to their European counterparts.  Deloitte report on year-nine screening programme December 2020.