Reporting from the NZAS Conference

The news from the NZAS conference is indeed remarkable! Held in the first week of July, audiology specialists gathered in Queenstown to future-gaze and review current research.

The news from the NZAS conference is indeed remarkable! Held in the first week of July, audiology specialists gathered in Queenstown to future-gaze and review current research. Of particular interest is that undiagnosed mid-life hearing loss is the biggest modifiable factor to prevent dementia, and much like progressive diseases such as diabetes, the earlier it is detected and treated the better the outcome. We also report on ACC’s changed protocols in assessing noise induced hearing loss claims.

ACC funding for chemically-induced hearing loss

Changes to ACC procedures could result in more people receiving compensation for hearing damage accelerated by exposure to toxic chemicals.

Research long since established a correlation between chemical exposure and an increased susceptibility to noise induced hearing loss, the theory being that chemicals absorbed by the body make the inner ear more susceptible to noise and its damage.

Workers in chemical and petrochemical industries, e.g., mechanics, panel beaters, farmers, and those working with solvents and paints, have a higher risk of hearing loss when exposed to noise. Having in the past been focused on physical trauma, ACC has now accepted that chemical exposure is a pre-curser to noise induced hearing loss.

What this means for many workers is that it is important to declare chemical exposure and handling when making an ACC claim, and to draw it to the attention of your ENT specialist and ACC so that chemical exposure is taken into consideration when deciding your claim.

Healthy ageing, healthy life

The original link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline was strengthened by keynote speaker Professor Frank Lin from Johns Hopkins University, whose message was that the ongoing epidemiological research is even more compelling now than three to four years ago when first theorised.

Estimates are that one in thirty people will have dementia by 2050, and the longitudinal studies indicate that hearing loss is a major contributor. This conversation about healthy ageing targets led by Professor Lin identified cognitive abilities as the most important factor.

The good news is that hearing health intervention can protect your brain and slow cognitive decline. In other words, early treatment of hearing loss can improve cognition, but you must catch it early. Mid-life hearing loss has the biggest impact on future outcomes, and much like other progressive diseases such as diabetes, the earlier it is detected and treated the better the outcome. Research led by Ryan McCreery from Boys Town National Research Hospital also shows the importance of correctly fitted hearing aids; those made and professionally fitted to prescriptions give better health outcomes and provided the highest levels of performance for their wearers.

Further research indicates that the prevalence of hearing loss in society is higher than the rate of hearing aid use. Paradoxically, even in countries where hearing solutions are free, their uptake is low; perhaps the stigma will reduce as earbuds, headphones and hearing aids begin to look alike.

Hearing loss is associated with many health conditions that affect the whole of your life. Be wise: get a yearly hearing check-up, and start early in life.

Did you know

  • People with untreated hearing loss have a 32% faster cognitive decline compared to those with no hearing loss or those who wear hearing aids full time.
  • With every 10dB drop in hearing there is a 2.5 times more likelihood of dementia.
  • Mid-life hearing loss is the single largest modifiable factor to prevent dementia.
  • Hearing loss is shown to affect many aspect of life including: risk of dementia, increased falls, increased social isolation and risk of depression, memory loss, just to name a few.