As in all western countries, Australia's older population experiences high levels of hearing impairment coupled with relatively low levels of hearing device usage. Poor hearing diminishes the quality of life of affected individuals and their families. This paper discusses how to improve Australian hearing health policies in order to better combat this impairment amongst older Australians.
We searched the databases Medline, Meditext and Web of Science to find articles that discussed strategies and innovations to assist the hearing health of older people, and related this material to observations made during the Blue Mountains Hearing Study in NSW between 1997 and 2003.
Results and Discussion
The literature search identified five areas for inclusion in a comprehensive hearing health policy in Australia. These are: early intervention; addressing of hearing aid expense; the use of assisted listening devices; hearing rehabilitation, and; screening and education. Further research in Australia is critical if we are to develop a strong approach to the increasing prevalence of age-related hearing loss.
Australia needs to act now to address hearing impairment as it is a major cause of disability in those aged 55 and over. Federal and State governments should collaborate to construct a comprehensive hearing health policy that tackles poor levels of hearing health through early intervention, addressing hearing aid expense, encouraging the use of assisted listening devices, rehabilitation, screening and education. A good start would be to declare age related hearing impairment as a National Health Priority Area.