As the Australian Hearing Hub celebrates its 10th anniversary, Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), reflects on a decade of collaboration in hearing health.
Hearing loss poses a significant challenge worldwide, with at least one billion people directly affected. Four million Australians—one in six—currently live with some form of hearing loss, a number that is expected to rise to one in four by 2050. This is partly due to our ageing population, but also directly related to our lifestyle choices.
Located on the Wallumattagal Campus, the Australian Hearing Hub (AHH) is an initiative of Macquarie University and was established in 2013 with the aim of improving the lives of those with hearing loss. Ten years later, it remains a globally unique partnership uniting academic, industry, government and not‑for-profit partners.
Members of the AHH include Macquarie University, Cochlear Limited, the Federal Government’s hearing services program Hearing Australia and its research arm National Acoustic Laboratories, not-for-profit specialists NextSense, and The Shepherd Centre. I am very proud to serve as Chair of the AHH Members Committee.
The AHH was established under the leadership of the then DVC (Research), the late Emeritus Professor Jim Piper, with the ambitious goals of transforming our understanding of human hearing and communication through research, innovation, education and practice, and improving the lives of people with hearing loss. These are goals to which all members remain strongly committed, individually and as a community.
Over the past 10 years, the AHH has delivered impactful research, designed and influenced healthcare policy, and trained and supported clinicians, practitioners and technologists around the world to deliver life-changing interventions for all forms of hearing impairment and communication disorder.
The AHH is an excellent example of Macquarie University’s special affinity for, and commitment to, working with a diverse range of partners to deliver solutions to real-world problems. The trust built at the AHH is evidenced by all members undertaking a formal agreement with Google Australia earlier this year to establish the Australian Future Hearing Initiative. Exciting projects are already underway as part of this initiative, such as the hyper-personalisation of hearing devices, and there are more in development.
AHH members are collaborating on vital public health initiatives at both local and global levels. Two current initiatives are developing culturally safe ways to address the high prevalence of middle ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (which is potentially relevant to indigenous populations around the world), and sharing Australia’s expertise in newborn hearing screening with other countries aspiring to set up similar programs.
The past 10 years have been immensely productive for the AHH, with the strength of collaboration between the members stronger than ever. I look forward to continuing to work with my AHH colleagues and, through them, the passionate staff at each of our institutions to support the advancements and new partnerships the coming decade will bring.