Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH) announced the launch of its Hearing 20/20 campaign, a new public health initiative to adopt 20/20 as a common metric for normal hearing, during October’s Audiology Awareness Month. According to Cochlear, the campaign is supported by 10 hearing health nonprofit and industry partners, and establishes a simple, common metric—defined as 20 decibels in each ear—to help simplify the ongoing conversation and actions related to monitoring hearing health and treating hearing loss, especially among adults 55 years of age and older.
Did you know normal hearing is 20/20? Get to know your hearing number during October’s Audiology Awareness Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition impacting adults in the United States, and hearing loss is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer.1 However, hearing is not a mandatory part of an individual’s annual physical screening and generally is deprioritized amongst consumers and primary care providers2, even though studies continue to prove untreated hearing loss has a sizable negative impact on an individual’s overall health3.
Research conducted by Cochlear found 93% of consumers know what normal vision is, but only 9% can define normal hearing.2 Seventy-seven percent of consumers turn to their primary care providers for hearing loss information, but 75% of consumers do not complete annual hearing exams.2 Additionally, 47% of consumers prioritize their pet’s annual exam over getting their hearing checked annually.2
“Hearing health should be prioritized as a significant part of a person’s overall health, especially as we age,” said Joanna T. Smith, MS CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert, AVT, Founder, CEO, and executive director, Hearts for Hearing. ”Like vision, normal hearing is 20/20. Everyone should get to know their hearing number by requesting a hearing test at their next doctor’s visit and should continue checking their hearing health annually, thereafter. We all know hearing loss can negatively impact a person’s quality of life; however, hearing loss is treatable and not something we just have to live with.”
For healthcare providers treating patients during an annual physical, a simple way to screen for hearing loss is wash your hands during the appointment. With the water running and back to the patient, ask a few questions. If they do not respond or the answers do not match what was asked, it is appropriate to start a conversation about hearing loss and discuss referring for a hearing test.4 For consumers and their loved ones, they should request a hearing test at their next annual physical so they can learn their hearing number.
Proper audiometric testing is needed to determine a person’s hearing number. The testing, typically done by an audiologist, can provide a summary of a person’s hearing status via an audiogram. During the testing, hearing thresholds are measured in decibels (dB) for each ear using pure tones across a range of frequencies (Hz). Pure-tone average (PTA) refers to the average of hearing thresholds at a set of specified frequencies and can indicate a hearing level for each ear. As such, a hearing level from 0 to 20 dB PTA in each ear is considered normal. Numbers exceeding 20 dB could benefit from amplification, such as hearing aids, while levels above 60 dB suggest a referral for a cochlear implant evaluation.5 Cochlear is proposing hearing health professionals use the PTA as a simple, easy to remember metric for consumers to track their hearing levels.
“We understand a PTA measurement is a very simplified metric amongst a complex battery of testing that hearing health professionals perform,” said Patricia Trautwein, AuD, vice president, product management & marketing, Cochlear Americas. ”However, if we want to help more people hear, we need to communicate simple metrics and help consumers and referring professionals adopt them much like other health metrics. Then we can help those who need treatment, like hearing aids or cochlear implants that are widely underutilized, hear better sooner, and help increase quality of life earlier as well.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one in every three people 65 years of age and one in every two 75 years of age and over has hearing loss.6 The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are 72 million people who could potentially benefit from the use of a hearing device, such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant.7 However, on average, people with hearing loss wait six years to get their hearing loss treated.8 By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be 65 years and older and this generation will live longer than any generation in history.9 Prioritizing hearing health is necessary now to help aging adults live active, healthy, and independent lives as long as possible.
This is the first phase of a multi-year initiative to educate the public about the importance of hearing health. To learn your hearing number, find a local audiologist near you from the directories linked on the Hearing2020.com website. Industry and nonprofit partners supporting the campaign include the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), AG Bell, Hearing Health Foundation, Hearing First, Hearing Industries Association (HIA), American Cochlear Implant (ACI) Alliance, Songs for Sound, and Ear Community.
- Rothwell CJ, Madans JH, Gentleman JF. Summary health statistics for US adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. Vital and health statistics, Series 10, No. 260. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_260.pdf. Published February 2014.
- Cochlear 20/20 hearing study. Survey of 1,250 conducted by Penn, Schoen, Berland. March 13, 2019. Data on file.
- Brody JE. Hearing loss threatens mind, life, and limb. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/well/live/hearing-loss-threatens-mind-life-and-limb.html. Published December 31, 2018.
- Strait JE. Cochlear implants should be recommended for adults more often. Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis website. https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/cochlear-implants-should-be-recommended-much-more-often-for-adults-with-hearing-loss/#:~:text=An%20international%20group%20of%20hearing,than%20is%20the%20current%20practice. Published August 27, 2020.
- Zwolan TA, Schvartz-Leyzac KC, Pleasant T. Development of a 60/60 guideline for referring adults for a traditional cochlear implant candidacy evaluation. Otol Neurotol. 2020;41(7):895-900.
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Hearing Loss and Older Adults. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults. Published July 17, 2018. Accessed September 11, 2020.
- World Health Organization (WHO). Deafness and Hearing Loss. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/. Published March 1, 2020. Accessed September 11, 2020.
- Hearing Industries Association. MT10 MarkeTrak 10 Base Report. Published March 27, 2019.
- United States Census Bureau. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be age 65 or older: 2020 census will help policymakers prepare for the incoming wave of aging Boomers. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/12/by-2030-all-baby-boomers-will-be-age-65-or-older.html. Published December 10, 2019.
Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.