LONE TREE, COLORADO — Cochlear Limited, a global leader in implantable hearing solutions, has announced the launch of the 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.
Supported by 10 hearing health nonprofit and industry partners, establishing a simple, common metric, defined as 20 decibels in each ear, can 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.
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 percent of consumers know what normal vision is, but only 9 percent can define normal hearing.2 Seventy-seven percent of consumers turn to their primary care providers for hearing loss information, but 75 percent of consumers do not complete annual hearing exams.2 Additionally, 47 percent 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. 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.”
—Joanna T. Smith, MS CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert., AVT, Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Hearts for Hearing
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.
Getting a Hearing Check up
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. 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”
—Patricia Trautwein, AuD, VP of Product Management & Marketing, Cochlear Americas
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 American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Hearing Loss Association of America, A.G. Bell, Hearing Health Foundation, Hearing First, Hearing Industries Association, American Cochlear Implant Alliance, Songs for Sound and Ear Community.
About Cochlear Limited
Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. The company has a global workforce of more than 4,000 people and invests more than AUD$180 million each year in research and development. Products include cochlear implants, bone conduction implants and acoustic implants, which healthcare professionals use to treat a range of moderate to profound types of hearing loss. Since 1981, Cochlear has provided more than 600,000 implantable devices, helping people of all ages, in more than 180 countries, to hear. www.cochlear.com/us
- Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for US adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. Vital health statistics, series 10, no. 260. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_260.pdf
- May 29, 2019 Cochlear 20/20 hearing study. Survey of 1,250 conducted by Penn, Schoen, Berland, March 13, 2019. Data on file.
- Brody, J. E. (2018, December 31). Hearing Loss Threatens Mind, Life and Limb. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/well/live/hearing-loss-threatens-mind-life-and-limb.html.
- Strait, J.E. (2020, August 27). Cochlear implants should be recommended for adults more often. Available from: 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.
- 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;41:895-900.
- Hearing Loss and Older Adults [Internet]. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; c2018 [cited 11 Sept 2020]. Available from: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults.
- Deafness and hearing loss fact sheet [Internet]. World Health Organization; c2020 [cited 11 Sept 2020]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/.
- Hearing Industries Association. MT10 MarkeTrak 10 Base Report. Washington, DC: Marketing Research, Inc; March 27, 2019.
- America Counts Staff (2019, December 10). 2020 Census Will Help Policymakers Prepare for the Incoming Wave of Aging Boomers. Available from: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/12/by-2030-all-baby-boomers-will-be-age-65-or-older.html.