Failure to take action could result in poor quality of life for millions of people. WHO projects that nearly 630 million people worldwide will have disabling hearing loss by 2030 unless people tend to their hearing health. By 2050, that number could increase to more than 900 million. What’s more, unaddressed hearing loss comes with a hefty price tag. Currently, WHO says, untreated hearing loss imposes an annual cost of $750 billion globally.
The factors that foster unaddressed hearing loss vary. The overwhelming majority of those with disabling hearing loss reside in low- and middle-income countries—and generally lack access to required services and interventions.
However, in the United States, hearing loss remains one of the most common chronic health conditions.
“Most glaring in the U.S. is the need for identifying and treating hearing loss in adults,” according to Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2019 ASHA President. “We know that many U.S. adults do not seek treatment for hearing loss, often due to the pervasive perception that hearing loss is simply a nuisance rather than a serious medical condition that can affect one’s overall health, mental health, job and career success, personal relationships and social life, and general quality of life.”
Among U.S. adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30%) has ever used them, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Even fewer adults aged 20–69 (approximately 16%) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.
ASHA notes that the public can ask themselves these questions about their hearing. Anyone with concerns should seek an evaluation from a certified audiologist. A searchable list of these professionals is available at www.asha.org/profind. The public can also call 800-638-8255. ASHA is also encouraging its own members to spread the word about hearing loss via this digital toolkit.