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1.5 Billion People Globally Live With Hearing Loss – WHO

…135 million people with issue in Africa alone

KEMI OMONIYI

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has said that at least 1.5 billion people across the globe live with ear problems and hearing loss.

In a message to commemorate the World Hearing Day, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in Africa alone, over  135 million people have ear and hearing problems.

While emphasising the need to take urgent measures to address the growing trend, she added that more than 338 million people will be affected by hearing issues by 2050.

According to the world health body, nearly 80 per cent of those affected are living in low and middle-income countries.

While acknowledging recent efforts made to address hearing care, she said that the ongoing support to Kenya to establish a Center of Excellence for Eye Health Clinic, Ear Health and Oral Health is a welcome step. 

She said, “Also, with our support, countries are developing and implementing national strategies for ear health. In 2022, Kenya, Malawi and Guinea launched and started to implement national ear and hearing care strategies.

“Furthermore, there is now a regional analysis on ear and hearing care, including country profiles for all Member States. Furthermore, two modules on ear and hearing care management for primary health care workers were developed. They will be integrated into the WHO PEN packages. 

“Here are the most burning issues affecting patients: Many people with hearing loss do not know how and where to find help or do not have access to the needed services. This greatly impacts on the lives of those affected, their families, and their communities. Moreover, the excessive burden of these conditions is also due to the limited number of ear, nose and throat specialists and audiologists available in the countries.  In the African Region, nearly US$ 30 billion are lost due to the collective failure to address hearing loss adequately.

“Over 60 per cent of the common ear diseases and hearing loss can be detected and often managed at the primary level of care. However, in most places, access to ear and hearing care continues to be limited to highly specialized centers and clinics. It is important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services who must seek specialized services, often in distant hospitals.

“Integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building at this level to address the challenges. It is possible to ensure these services by training a non-specialist workforce that serve as the first point of contact for the communities. To facilitate such integration, we have launched a “Primary ear and hearing care training manual” that is intended to inform doctors, nurses, and other health workers. We have no doubt this manual will benefit people and help countries move towards the goal of universal health coverage.

“Therefore, I encourage governments to prioritise ear and hearing care health programmes as part of their non-communicable diseases and universal healthcare agendas and increase their campaign, political and financial commitment. Increasing newborn hearing screening services as well as the effective accessibility of hearing aid technology, are critical starting points.

“To patients suffering from ear and hearing conditions and the public, I recommend that you learn more about these conditions and seek care when needed, including promoting hearing screening services.

“I urge all stakeholders to unite and act on the above recommendations, integrating ear and hearing care services into district health systems and primary health care.”

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