Hear and now: Why early hearing screenings and interventions matter

As with many other health conditions, early detection and intervention can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for those with hearing loss. Proactive measures can also aid in the prevention of further hearing loss, in both adults and children.

Early detection and intervention through the provision of national screening programs and access to interventions, including cochlear implants and hearing aids, are important factors when it comes to improving outcomes.

These early screenings should target infants and young children, but also adults (starting at the age of 50) and people exposed to noise in occupational and recreational settings.

Failing to intervene – the consequences

According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) World Report on Hearing, the impact of hearing loss on a person is determined not only by the severity and profile of the loss, but also largely by 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.

Untreated 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. For adults, untreated hearing loss is often linked to compounding negative effects, such as including social isolation, depression, and cognitive decline. Economically, the cost of unaddressed hearing loss was estimated to be over $980 billion globally  – this includes costs related to health care, education, productivity losses, and societal costs.

Cost-effective interventions can improve outcomes

Early screening and intervention can allow people to take proactive measures to stop additional harm from noise exposure, provide people with treatment options such as rehabilitative therapy and hearing aids, and ensure older adults can continue to enjoy social interactions and maintain close relationships.

In newborns and children, early intervention can help reduce the effects of hearing loss on development and also ensure faster access to services and information for parents. Early intervention helps young children with hearing loss learn language skills and other important skills. This has been borne out in the research – a US study found that profoundly deaf children who receive cochlear implants, especially those who are early-implanted, significantly outperform their non-implanted deaf peers.

Across Europe, national campaigns are focusing on early hearing loss intervention

According to the most recent EuroTrak data 2022 for Germany, fewer than a third of 50 to 60-year-olds had undergone a hearing test in the previous five years. A national campaign involving stakeholders, including patients and ENT specialists, is now calling for specialist hearing screening from the age of 50 to be included as part of the services covered by statutory health insurance funds. The Hearing Health Initiative says not only will this aid in the prevention of worsening hearing loss in this population, it will also help avoid associated risks such as depression and accelerated cognitive decline.

Meanwhile, in Malta, a proactive pilot project offered free hearing tests throughout 2021. Forty-one percent of those who participated were found to have a hearing impairment. The pilot project ran in tandem with a national awareness campaign, which was focused on education related to hearing loss and its impact on society. Malta was described as a “unique model for international countries regarding free hearing tests” by the International Coordinator of the Hearing Health Forum based in Europe.

Addressing the need for early detection and intervention

Improving access to early detection and intervention against hearing loss across Europe must be a priority, given the proven benefits of timely diagnosis and intervention with available hearing technologies, which make “healthy hearing at all ages” a reality.


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