Hearing loss due to environmental factors, such as constant use of personal music devices, is predicted to rise over the coming decades, according to a UNSW researcher.

As part of a public lecture to be given tomorrow, Professor of Physiology Gary Housley will speak about the ongoing stress which modern-day life is placing on our ears and the damage it is causing.

"Without doubt environmental factors are already contributing to premature hearing loss, but the worst is still to come," he said.

US studies indicate that environmental noise has doubled over the last 20 years.

"Those studies don't even take into account the effect of personal music players, because they have only just become so popular," said Professor Housley.

The prestigious US body, the National Institutes of Health, has issued an alert advising members of the public that prolonged sound exposure from personal music players poses a significant risk to hearing.

"We are exposed to far higher sound levels than previous generations and this is putting our ears under constant stress," Professor Housley said. "Unlike other cells in the body, the sensory cells that are associated with hearing don't regenerate. Once they're gone, they're gone for good - unless science can find an answer."

Professor Housley will also speak about age-related hearing loss, which is about to hit the baby boomer population.

A recent study estimates one in six Australians is currently affected by hearing loss and the cost is $11.75 billion or 1.4 percent of GDP (Access Economics for CRC HEAR and the Victorian Deaf Society). One in four Australians is expected to have hearing loss by 2050.

Professor Housley, the newly appointed Professor of Physiology at UNSW, will present the first of the Faculty of Medicine's lecture series for 2007.

For more information, go to the Faculty website.

What: Translating auditory neuroscience into treatments for deafness - lectureWhen: Wednesday, April 18, 6-7pmWhere: Biomedical Theatres, UNSW (entry via Gate 11)

RSVP required, as seating is strictly limited. Please phone 9385 8765 or email here

For media, please contact: Gary Housley, Professor of Physiology, 0404 235 180; or Susi Hamilton, UNSW media unit, 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024

Date Issued: 17 April 2007