On March 3, governments, organizations and individuals across the globe will celebrate World Hearing Day. Coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the annual advocacy day aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care internationally.
This year’s theme is “Action for Hearing Loss: Make a Sound Investment.” Materials will spotlight the economic costs of hearing loss. WHO reports some staggering statistics for the 2017 event. According to most recent estimates, unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy $750 billion annually.
More specifically, WHO states unaddressed significant hearing loss results in:
- $67 to 107 billion in health care system cost, other than the cost of hearing devices.
- $105 billion in loss of productivity, due to unemployment and premature retirement.
- $573 billion in societal cost, as a result of social isolation, communication difficulties and stigma.
- $3.9 billion in cost of additional educational support to children with hearing loss ages 5 to 14.
Looking at hearing loss from a personal—as opposed to global—perspective, the costs to individuals include financial costs (in the form of higher medical bills and lost wages), medical risks (including increased dementia risk, increased risk of mortality and other concerns) and psychological costs (in the forms of social isolation, anxiety and depression). Yet, we know that many patients wait years to treat their hearing loss, if ever. Many may not realize hearing loss is a serious medical condition affecting almost all aspects of life.
In support of World Hearing Day, ASHA developed a Digital Toolkit members can use to promote the profession of audiology. The toolkit contains shareable social media tools including hearing loss checklists, consumer facts and tips, and a video explaining the various costs of leaving hearing loss untreated.
In the toolkit, you’ll also find WHO materials you can use on social media, in editorials or stories for your local newspaper or TV station, in presentations, or in other forums. Whatever the outreach channel, this is a time to collectively add our voice and raise the profile of one of the most widespread health conditions—hearing loss—which all too often goes ignored.
Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is 2017 ASHA president. firstname.lastname@example.org.