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Deaf Awareness Week runs from the 21st to the 27th of September this year. Deaf Awareness Week has been running since 2004, and this year’s theme is ‘Tender Ears’, focusing on the risks that can lead to hearing loss in childhood and during life.

Hearing impairment affects 450,000 New Zealanders. According to the National Foundation for the Deaf, 48,000 hearing aids were fitted last year, and this year that number has gone up to 55,000 (this figure represents total fittings and may include replacements). Based on an Australian study, hearing loss is estimated to cost about 1.67% of the GDP which translates to $3 billion/per year in New Zealand. Hearing loss costs the ACC $90 million in claims to date, and that figure is increasing at about 20% per annum (you can read more about hearing loss in the workplace here). A survey from the National Foundation for the Deaf which examined 65 early childhood centres concluded that about 20% of children have been affected by high noise levels. (*Data provided by the National Foundation for the Deaf)

According to the World Health Organization, ’about one half of all deafness and hearing impairments can be prevented.’ (You can find the WHO Hearing Impairment and Deafness fact sheet here).

What is noise induced hearing loss?

Noise induces damage to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea). These cells, which are responsible for translating sound into an electrical signal that is transmitted to the brain, have a bundle of ‘hairs’ which vibrate in response to sound. Loud noises damage these hairs, and render the cells unable to transmit information to the brain. In humans (as in other mammals), once these cells are damaged they cannot be repaired and ultimately die. This means that any damage to the hair cells may result in permanent hearing loss.

Did you know?

  • Hair cells can dance! If you haven’t seen one, check this out.
  • In 1990 the University of Auckland established the first Audiology programme.
  • Hair cells can regenerate in birds and other non-mammalian vertebrates.
  • In 2006 the New Zealand Government announced it ’would fund a universal newborn hearing screening programme for all eligible New Zealand children.’
  • Links to other hearing related sites .