- Each individual has a unique hearing trajectory that is shaped by diverse
influences experienced throughout the life course; these include genetic
characteristics, and biological, behavioural and environmental factors.
- The course of the hearing trajectory determines a person’s hearing capacity
at any point during their life. Causative and protective factors influence
- Although factors influencing hearing capacity can be encountered at
different periods of a person’s life, some factors are more likely to be
experienced – or individuals may be most susceptible to their effects – at
specific points in life.
- Section 1 describes the causative and protective influences encountered
during the prenatal period through to older age, with emphasis placed on
those most relevant to public health.
- Hearing capacity is commonly measured using pure tone audiometry
and classified based on the audiometric hearing thresholds. Any decline
in hearing capacity is referred to as hearing loss or hearing impairment2
which may range in severity from mild to complete.
- Globally more than 1.5 billion people experience some degree of hearing
loss. Of these, an estimated 430 million have hearing loss of moderate or
higher severity in the better hearing ear. Prevalence of hearing loss varies
across WHO regions; the vast majority of people affected live in low- and
middle-income countries of the world.
- The impact of hearing loss on a person is determined not only by the
severity and profile of the loss, but also largely on whether the hearing
loss is addressed by effective clinical or rehabilitative interventions, and
the extent to which the environment is responsive to the person’s needs.
- If unaddressed, hearing loss can negatively impact many aspects of life:
communication; the development of language and speech in children;
cognition; education; employment; mental health; and interpersonal
relationships. Hearing loss can cause low self-esteem, is often associated
with stigma, and can significantly impact the families and communication
partners of those living with the condition.
- Globally, unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual cost of over $ 980 billion.3
This includes costs related to health care, education, productivity losses,
and societal costs. Many of these costs can be mitigated through the use
of cost–effective interventions, as described later in the report.
- Hearing is a key component of human intrinsic capacity; it is the sense most relied
upon to communicate and engage with others. Any decline in hearing capacity at
any point during the life course, if not addressed in a timely manner, can adversely
affect day-to-day functioning (1, 2). Section 1 highlights these factors and explores
the impact of unaddressed hearing loss on those affected, their families and society
as a whole.
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