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It is estimated that some 3.6 million Australians have hearing loss and that this number will double by 2060. Critically 49% of childhood hearing loss is estimated to be preventable, as is 37% of adult loss. This represents a major economic and social challenge which will grow as the population increases. Despite such compelling numbers, there is a disturbingly low level of knowledge of hearing health in the community.
As an example of the initiatives being undertaken, Hearing Australia and its research arm the National Acoustic Laboratories have developed and validated two checklists that give primary health and early childhood services tools to identify hearing loss and take action early. These tools, the Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure (PLUM) listening checklist and the Hearing and Talk Scale (HATS) language checklist, are freely available along with demonstration videos. A ‘Talking at Home’ guide is also available to support families build their children’s language skills.
If not addressed early, hearing loss can influence the way children speak, learn and interact with others leading to long term speech and language challenges in education and employment.