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International Journal of Otolaryngology
Volume 2013, Article ID 308509, 7 pages
Review Article

The Need for Improved Detection and Management of Adult-Onset Hearing Loss in Australia

1Centre for Language Sciences, Australian Hearing Hub, 16 University Dve, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia
2HEARing Cooperative Research Centre, 550 Swanston St, Audiology, Hearing and Speech Sciences University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
3Centre for Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology and Westmead Millennium Institute, The University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia
4Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Victor Coppleson Building, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
5School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
6School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, St Lucia Campus, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
7School of Audiology, 550 Swanston St, Audiology, Hearing and Speech Sciences, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

Received 9 March 2012; Accepted 8 April 2013

Academic Editor: Charles Monroe Myer

Copyright © 2013 Catherine M. McMahon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Adult-onset hearing loss is insidious and typically diagnosed and managed several years after onset. Often, this is after the loss having led to multiple negative consequences including effects on employment, depressive symptoms, and increased risk of mortality. In contrast, the use of hearing aids is associated with reduced depression, longer life expectancy, and retention in the workplace. Despite this, several studies indicate high levels of unmet need for hearing health services in older adults and poor use of prescribed hearing aids, often leading to their abandonment. In Australia, the largest component of financial cost of hearing loss (excluding the loss of well-being) is due to lost workplace productivity. Nonetheless, the Australian public health system does not have an effective and sustainable hearing screening strategy to tackle the problem of poor detection of adult-onset hearing loss. Given the increasing prevalence and disease burden of hearing impairment in adults, two key areas are not adequately met in the Australian healthcare system: (1) early identification of persons with chronic hearing impairment; (2) appropriate and targeted referral of these patients to hearing health service providers. This paper reviews the current literature, including population-based data from the Blue Mountains Hearing Study, and suggests different models for early detection of adult-onset hearing loss.