IT'S an unlikely partnership, but former International test cricketer Brett Lee has teamed up with bionic ear inventor Professor Graeme Clark.
This World Hearing Day on March 3, the retired Australian pacer and Professor Clark - the inventor of the cochlear implant - are urging older Australians to take action over hearing loss.
"Hearing loss is preventable and treatable. I urge all older Australians not to leave it too late to get your hearing tested," said Professor Clark, 84, whose multichannel cochlear implant has helped give the gift of sound to hundreds of thousands all over the world.
He said depite the prevalence of hearing loss, older Australians dismiss hearing loss as an inevitable part of getting older and do not seek treatment.
"Hearing connects us with our loved ones. Living with hearing loss not only means losing the ability to perceive sound - but it can also lead to lost conversations, social withdrawal and isolation, and a drop in confidence and self-esteem."
Cochlear ambassador Lee recently struck up a friendship with the ear, nose and throat surgeon after meeting for the first time in February on Cochlear Implant Day (February 26) alongside hundreds in the hearing loss community to mark Graeme's legacy and to share their experiences advocating for hearing loss across the world.
"Professor Clark's invention has restored hearing to hundreds of thousands across the world," said Lee.
I've met presidents and prime ministers, celebrities and superstars, and Professor Clark is undoubtably one of the most impressive people I have been fortunate enough to meet.
Lee has been using his profile in India to advocate for hearing treatment in children.
His association with Cochlear began when he was filming the Bollywood movie unIndian.
"When we were filming at Cochlear's headquarters in Sydney I got to know some of their recipients and even saw some of them 'switched on' for the first time, when they suddenly hear sound! I saw their sheer joy at being able to hear life. It really affected me," he said.
"I also got to appreciate all of the opportunities in life that sound brings, which is why I'm honoured to be Cochlear's first Global Hearing Ambassador."
Inspired by his love of music, Brett also started a music therapy foundation in India and spends a significant time travelling across communities and destigmatising hearing loss.
"I've been in love with music as long as I can remember. Perhaps even more so than cricket," he said. "The gift of music is something nobody should miss out on."
It was while working as an ear surgeon in the mid-1960s that Professor Clark came upon a research paper describing how a profoundly deaf person received hearing sensations through electrical stimulation.
The seed was planted, and in 1967 he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device: a cochlear implant.
Now in his 80s, Professor Clarke, is still as determined as ever to experience the small joys life can bring.
"I still want to find out what it's like to face a 161km/h fast ball," he said.
Current WHO estimates suggest over 460 million people - approximately five per cent of the world's population - have disabling hearing loss.
Ex-army officer urges Aussies to combat hearing loss
For ex-Army officer Stephen Hodge, 67, not being able to communicate with his family motivated him to confront the hearing loss caused by his military career.
"A significant aspect of poor hearing is continually having to ask people to repeat themselves - and background noise was also very frustrating," said Mr Hodge, who is now a volunteer for the Anglesea Barracks in Victoria.
He said support from his partner Maree, his Army mates and Hearing Australia helped him accept his hearing loss and take action. He believes that not only has his hearing improved considerably, he now enjoys life again.
"I now find my volunteer work even more pleasurable and I find great joy in speaking with my three grandchildren. Now I have to remind Maree, my mates and my family that they don't need to shout at me anymore!"
According to research commissioned by Hearing Australia, more than 59 per cent of respondents say their partner or parent doesn't believe they have a hearing problem or they think they're coping fine - despite knowing their hearing isn't what it used to be (39 per cent).
For the over 50s, almost three-quarters of those who have a family member who hasn't had a hearing check, say it's likely due to them thinking they don't have a problem.
The research findings also indicate that the most common emotion felt by those who have a family member with hearing loss was frustration (68 per cent) - and the most affected are women and those aged over 50.
To make getting hearing help easier, Hearing Australia is calling on all Australians to take part in the Hear&Now 2020 Challenge by jumping on to hearing.com.au for a free 10-minute screening hearing check.
"The research highlights why it's really important for families to encourage and support their loved ones to take that first step. An easy and effective hearing check can help you learn how well you hear and how to get support if you need it," said Emma Scanlan, Principal Audiologist at Hearing Australia.
"With Australian seniors playing a more active role in their family's lives than ever before, taking control of your hearing could also help to improve your communication and enhance relationships."