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Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey officially launched

About 5000 people are expected to participate in Australia’s first national survey combining ear and eye health, launched on 3 March to coincide with World Hearing Day.

‘The Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey’ is a national study that will assess the prevalence of eye and ear conditions, as well as risk factors and impacts of vision and hearing loss in the community.

Macquarie University Hearing hosted the official launch this week. It will be the country’s first hearing national survey, and its second vision study building on the National Eye Health Survey in 2016.

Prof Paul Mitchell.

The survey is sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Health with support from Macquarie University to conduct the ear health component. It brings together investigators from seven institutions: the Westmead Institute for Medical Research’s (WIMR) Centre for Vision Research, Macquarie University Hearing, The University of Sydney, The School of Optometry and Vision Science, UNSW Sydney, The George Institute for Global Health and The Brien Holden Foundation.

Director of WIMR’s Centre for Vision Research Professor Paul Mitchell is leading the study, and inaugural cochlear chair in hearing and health at Macquarie University Hearing, Professor Bamini Gopinath, is leading the ear health component.

Gopinath said vision and hearing loss were key health issues in Australia, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and older, more than 11% have a vision impairment or are blind, and up to 82% have some form of hearing loss,” she said.

“Our researchers will be door knocking in eligible communities in city, regional and remote areas to invite people to take part, with the focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and older and non-Indigenous Australians aged 50 and older.

“Participants will have their vision and hearing tested, and will be surveyed to help us build up a picture of what sort of factors are influencing hearing and vision loss, and how these impairments affect people.”

Patricia Sparrow.

Vision 2020 Australia – a national body working to prevent avoidable blindness and improve vision care – strongly advocated for the second survey.

CEO Ms Patricia Sparrow welcomed its launch, saying it would provide critical eye and ear health data for use by government, health sector and other stakeholders.

“Data is critical to planning and delivering sight saving treatments and supports, as well as tracking progress towards eliminating and preventing avoidable vision loss,” Sparrow said.

“Vision 2020 Australia members across the eye health and vision care sector are keen to contribute to the survey and utilise the data to better support individuals who experience eye conditions or vision loss.”

‘The Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey’ will begin in coming weeks in NSW, and is expected to take about two years.

Findings from the study will contribute to Australia’s commitment to eradicate avoidable blindness in fulfilment of the United Nations General Assembly resolution Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; and integrated people-centred eyecare, including preventable vision impairment and blindness, adopted by World Health Organisation member states.

The survey will also fulfil several of the key priorities outlined in the Australian Government’s ‘Roadmap for Hearing Health’. Read more about the Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey.

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