ASHA Joins World Hearing Day Call to Change Mindsets About Hearing Care

March 3rd Observance Spotlights the Importance of Taking Action on Hearing Health

ROCKVILLE, Md., Feb. 26, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Although untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of depression, dementia, and even earlier death in some adults, Americans routinely ignore hearing difficulties for years or even decades before they seek help, if they ever do. This concerning reality is one that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) aims to address this March 3rd, which is recognized globally as World Hearing Day—an observance established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than 1.5 billion people—approximately 20% of the world’s population—are deaf or hard of hearing.

More than 1.5 billion people—approximately 20% of the world’s population—are deaf or hard of hearing, according to WHO. This number is projected to increase to 25% by 2050. In the United States, 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss, a figure that makes it more common than cancer or diabetes. Yet, aside from newborn screenings, hearing checkups occur inconsistently among children and uncommonly among adults.

Past ASHA polling shows a major disconnect between how people regard their hearing and how they care for it. While most (80%) U.S. adults say maintaining their hearing health is extremely or very important to their quality of life, only 20% report having a hearing test in the past 5 years—compared with 61% who have their vision tested. And among adults with untreated hearing problems, more than half say that they are unlikely to seek treatment unless their difficulties become “severe.”

“As an audiologist, it is troubling to see hearing rank so low on Americans’ list of health priorities—even with ample evidence showing life-altering benefits to treatment,” said ASHA 2024 President Tena McNamara, AuD, CCC-A/SLP. “World Hearing Day presents an important opportunity to educate the public about ear and hearing care, and to erase common misconceptions about hearing health. This year, the World Hearing Day theme of ‘Changing Mindsets’ couldn’t be more appropriate. Hopefully, we’ll change some minds and spur people to act on their hearing concerns.”

According to WHO, the annual global price tag of untreated hearing loss is nearly US$1 trillion. But the costs aren’t just financial. In children, unaddressed hearing loss can delay their speech and language development, hinder academic success, and negatively affect social relationships and behavior. In adults, untreated hearing loss can lead to increased social isolation, a higher risk of falls, and accelerated cognitive decline, among other consequences.

“Too often, people are complacent about their hearing,” McNamara said. “But it’s not something to take for granted or ignore, especially if someone is experiencing difficulties.”

Act Now on Hearing

ASHA encourages the public to take action on their hearing health starting today. Healthy hearing begins with practicing “safe listening” behaviors to prevent hearing damage associated with loud noise exposure. Safe listening habits include limiting the amount of time you spend in noisy environments (e.g., concert venues, loud exercise classes); wearing earplugs (earmuffs for young children) when you are in noisy places or if you have a noisy job; and keeping the volume to half or less when listening to personal technology devices, especially when using earbuds or headphones. By taking these steps, you can avoid developing noise-induced hearing loss—a leading form of hearing loss.

ASHA advises people who are already experiencing hearing difficulties to get checked as soon as possible. One easy way to do that at home is with ASHA’s new online Hearing Screener, a quick pass/fail screen for people ages 18 and older. ASHA-certified audiologists can provide a comprehensive hearing evaluation for people across the lifespan, from babies to adults. You can search for a provider in your area at www.asha.org/ProFind.

More information about World Hearing Day is available from WHO. To learn more about hearing loss and treatment options, visit www.asha.org/public or www.ActNowonHearing.org.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 228,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology assistants; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders. www.asha.org

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SOURCE American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)