Hearing loss costs billions

Hearing problems affect the performance of many in the workplace. About 160,000 Australians are unable to work because of bad hearing. The total annual direct costs to society associated with hearing loss in Australia is estimated at €6.7 billion.

The vast majority of these costs are due to loss in productivity. According to estimates prepared by Access Economics, an economic consulting and investment advisory firm, the annual productivity loss caused by hearing loss was found to be approximately €3.9 billion, or 57 percent of the total direct costs associated with hearing loss.

The cost of informal carers was calculated at approximately €1.7 billion. Informal carers provide communication assistance to hearing impaired people in a variety of settings.

Access Economics found that the estimated annual losses in income and consumption taxes amounted to €726 million. Another €726 million cost was incurred in extra welfare payments.

The annual direct health care costs, such as diagnosis and treatment expenses, amounted to about €376 million.

The price of reduced quality of life

Hearing loss affects more than people's hearing. Hearing impairment increases the risks to mental health and has a significant impact on social functioning even in cases of mild hearing loss. Hearing aids and appropriate counselling may cushion some of the difficulties. However, a large proportion of people with hearing loss find that their hearing loss adversely affects their general well-being.

Based on its study, Access Economics estimated that the reduced quality of life among hearing impaired Australians costs the Australian society €6.1 billion, annually, roughly equivalent to the estimated direct costs.

Hearing loss a growing problem

Ever-increasing numbers of people experience hearing problems, and the outlook for the annual costs to society seems to be for a continued upward trend far into the future.

Projections indicate that by 2050 one in four in Australia will be struggling with hearing problems. This represents an increase of 30 percent over 2005 in the number of hearing impaired people. Noise will be the major cause of hearing loss in 37 percent of all instances.

Conservative estimates

The economic calculations in the study were based on conservative estimates, according to Access Economics. For instance, the degree of hearing loss was taken to be that of the better ear in each affected individual. The true costs to society of hearing loss are likely to be significantly higher than those reflected in the estimates.

Source: "The Economic Impact and Cost of hearing Loss In Australia", Access Economics, February 2006