By Asmau Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says an estimated 1.5 billion people globally live with hearing loss.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, made this known in her message to mark and commemorate the 2023 World Hearing Day with theme: Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality.”
She also said that the number could rise to over 2.5 billion by 2030.
The world hearing day is held on March 3 each year to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.
Moeti said that the burden of ear and hearing problems reflects significant inequalities disproportionately impacting on the marginalized populations across the globe.
She said in Africa, an estimated 135 million people are battling with ear and hearing problems as medical conditions, saying the number has been on the increase by the day.
Moeti said that at the current rate, it was likely that by the year 2050 about 338 million people would be affected by visual and hearing problems in Africa.
The regional director said that the day was an opportunity to raise awareness on the preventive measures as well as promote ear and hearing care worldwide.
She explained that It was a favourable day to reiterate the message on preventing and addressing common ear and hearing problems as nearly $30 billion were being lost due to the collective failure to address the problem in the African Region.
According to her, more than 60 per cent of the common ear diseases and hearing loss can be detected and often managed at the primary level of medical care.
“We acknowledge recent efforts made by the relevant bodies towards addressing hearing and visual problems. The ongoing support to Kenya to establish a Centre of Excellence for Eye Health Clinic, Eye Health and Oral Health is a welcome step.
“Also, with our support, countries are developing and implementing national strategies for ear health,” she said.
According to her, in 2022, Kenya, Malawi, and Guinea launched and started to implement national ear and hearing care strategies.
She said that there was also a regional analysis on ear and hearing care, including country profiles for all Member States.
Moeti said that two modules on ear and hearing care management for primary health care workers were developed saying that it would integrate 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.
“Also, 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 most places, access to ear and hearing care continues to be limited to highly specialized centres and clinics.
“Integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building to address the challenges.”
She said WHO had recently launched a Primary ear and hearing care training manual that was intended to inform doctors, nurses, and other health workers to achieve universal coverage.
She called on governments to prioritize ear and hearing care health programmes as part of their universal healthcare agenda and increase their political and financial commitment.
She further advocated for increase newborn hearing screening services, stressing that effective accessibility of hearing aid technology, are critical starting points.
Moeti urged hearing and the visually impaired individuals suffering to learn more about their conditions and seek care when needed, including attending hearing screening services.
She added that the World Report on Hearing has been developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution, adopted in 2017 as a means of providing guidance for Member States to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.