900m people at risk of hearing loss by 2050 – WHO

World Health Organisation (WHO) Head-Quater in Geneva, Switzerland.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Head-Quater in Geneva, Switzerland. Copyright : WHO/Pierre Virot

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has alerted that some 900 million people could suffer from disabling hearing loss across the world by 2050.

WHO said this in a report obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos.

The organisation called on relevant institutions, including governments and their partners to stem the rise in the disabling hearing loss.

The new estimates were released on the occasion of World Hearing Day on marked on March 3.

“The governments and their partners should integrate ear and hearing care into primary health care systems as part of universal health coverage.

“They should raise awareness among the public about the prevention of hearing loss.

“Ensure services to treat hearing loss, including access to assistive technologies and communication services, and train hearing care professionals.

“Regulate sound exposure on personal audio devices and in entertainment venues and workplaces, and empower people with hearing loss to overcome stigma and discrimination,’’ the report read in part.

It stated that currently, 466 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children; this was up from 360 million people five years ago.

“The main reasons for this increase is a growing ageing population and the persistence of risks such as ear and vaccine-preventable infections like measles, mumps and rubella.

“Others are the use of medicines that can harm hearing such as those used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria.

“Also, exposure to loud sounds through personal audio devices and in entertainment venues and workplaces,’’ said WHO.

According to Etienne Krug, Director of the WHO Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, past trends and future projections predict a vast increase in the number of people with hearing loss.

Krug said in the report that: “Unless appropriate action is initiated, nearly one in 10 people can have disabling hearing loss by 2050.

“This will considerably affect their lives and pose a significant cost to health systems.

“Governments must act now to prevent this rise and ensure people with hearing loss can access the services and technologies they need.’’

The report said that disabling hearing loss affected people in many ways including impact on a person’s ability to communicate, socialise, learn, work and enjoy life, contributing to poverty, social isolation and feelings of loneliness.

It said that in older people, hearing loss was linked to cognitive decline, increasing the risk of depression and dementia.

According to the report, unaddressed hearing loss costs countries an estimated US$ 750 billion annually in direct health costs and loss of productivity.

It stated that half of all cases of hearing loss could be prevented by immunisation, screening and treating children who suffered from chronic ear infections.

“Also, promoting safe childbirth to minimise the risk of asphyxia and neonatal infections associated with hearing loss; avoiding the use of particular drugs harmful to hearing.

“Controlling exposure to loud sounds in occupational and recreational settings; and raising awareness about healthy ear care practices through public health campaigns.’’

According to the report, detecting and intervening early when people do have hearing loss helps to minimise the consequences, especially for children.

It added that: “This is achieved through screening programmes.

“In cases where hearing loss is unavoidable, it is vital to ensure access to appropriate and affordable assistive technologies.

“Such as hearing aids and surgically implanted electronic cochlear implants, and communication services like speech therapy, sign language and captioning.’’


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