What new MEPs need to know about hearing loss in Europe

There will be at least 129.8 million people aged 65 years or older living in the EU by 2050, up from 90.5 million in 2019. Given the rapid pace of this demographic change, the next mandate of the European Parliament will be critical in ensuring Europe is set up for success as its population ages.

As the proportion of older people in Europe continues to rise, so too will the prevalence of hearing loss. New Members of the European Parliament, and returning Members looking to take a proactive stance on healthy ageing, should be aware of the facts about hearing loss, and how we can reduce the burden of hearing loss through earlier detection and widespread access to hearing interventions.

Hearing loss in Europe

In Europe, 10% of the total population – 52 million people – self-report experiencing hearing loss. Statistics show that there are at least 34.4 million people living with a disabling hearing loss (35 dB or greater) in the EU. Yet more than 22.6 million are not treated for it, and only around one in three use hearing aids or other hearing solutions.

Untreated hearing loss is a significant problem affecting the health of Europe’s citizens, and one that threatens to place even greater pressure on health and social care systems within the EU if it goes unaddressed. Untreated hearing impairment causes problems in all aspects of working life, such as mental health, isolation, and low self-esteem.

Recent studies have found an increased risk of dementia per 10dB that hearing loss worsens. In fact, they suggest that hearing loss is the most relevant of the identified 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia.

The cost of this is not insubstantial. Untreated, disabling hearing loss in the EU was estimated to cost 185 billion Euros each year, according to a 2019 study carried out for hear-it AISBL.

Alleviating the burden with hearing interventions

Unlike some other public health challenges, hearing loss can be addressed by proven cost-effective methods. Innovative medical technology, such as hearing aids, hearing care and hearing implants, can alleviate the burden. The societal impact of addressing hearing loss goes beyond hearing restoration: hearing intervention has been shown to slow down cognitive decline by 48% in a cohort at higher risk for dementia.

However, access to hearing care is inconsistent across Europe, with barriers such as lack of information, perceived high cost, and failure to detect hearing impairment.

The mission of the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) is to ensure that all people in need have access to hearing care, critical for well-being and high quality of life at any age. By uniting the major companies developing and manufacturing more than 90 percent of the world’s hearing aids and implants, we provide cohesive messaging on the importance of timely and effective hearing interventions.

What can MEPs do?

We are calling for action from European policymakers, both new and established, to help raise awareness of hearing loss, explore effective ways of prevention, facilitate access to hearing technologies and, where appropriate, improve care and share best practices amongst Member States. By doing so, we can reduce the burden of hearing loss and improve the quality of life of Europe’s citizens.

Members of the European Parliament can engage by:

Developing a European strategy on hearing loss, focusing on prevention and early intervention;

– Prevention can be tackled through cost effective hearing screening programs, focusing on infants; adults (particularly from the age of 65); and people exposed to noise in occupational and recreational settings.

– Treatment should focus on ensuring that access to professional hearing care is a right, and on removing the barriers on access to reimbursement.

Using your platform to increase awareness of hearing loss

Supporting investment in research on hearing loss, its prevention and rehabilitation

Continuing to help countries make investment choices into healthy ageing and the workforce as part of the European Semester process

Skip to content