"We used to say that one in ten had hearing impairment, but recent statistics in the UK and Australia show that one in six people are in fact thought to have a hearing disability. When we apply those rates here, over 700,000 New Zealanders are affected," says Louise Carroll, CEO of the National Foundation for the Deaf in New Zealand.
"New Zealand urgently needs to be doing something about this burgeoning burden of disability. We are calling on the New Zealand Government to fund nationwide research, as was done in Australiaâ€, says Ms Carroll.
The Australian research report “Listen Hear” showed that the real financial cost of hearing loss for the country was $11.75 billion in 2005. That works out to an average cost of $3,314 per person with a hearing loss per year, or $578 for every Australian.
"Without this kind of research, we have no idea what hearing loss is costing the country," says Ms Carroll.
According to Louise Carroll, more than half of the cost in Australia was productivity cost - almost half of the people with hearing impairments are of working age, but are unemployed due to their hearing loss. The same is thought to be the case in New Zealand.
A need for more insight
"The government (in New Zealand) needs to get a real picture of hearing loss and what its economic and social impacts on the country are. We then need to develop a strategy on how to better support people with hearing impairments, and to educate the wider population on how to preserve their hearingâ€, said Ms. Carroll, the National Foundation for the Deaf I New Zealand.