By Chioma Obinna
THE World Health Organisation, WHO, has raised alarm over imminent increase in hearing loss in the world, saying that 900 million people could suffer from hearing loss by 2050.
In a new estimates released to mark this year’s World Hearing Day weekend, it noted that currently 466 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children.
The new report lamented that there was a sharp increase from 360 million people five years ago.
Reacting to the estimates, Director of WHO Department for Management of Non Communicable Diseases, Dr. Etienne Krug, blamed the rise on growing ageing population and the persistence of risks such as ear and vaccine-preventable infections like measles, mumps and rubella.
Krug also identified the use of medicines that can harm hearing such as those used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria; and exposure to loud sounds through personal audio devices and in entertainment venues and workplaces.
“Past trends and future projections predict a vast increase in the number of people with hearing loss.
“Unless appropriate action is initiated, nearly one in 10 people could 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,” he stated.
Krug said disabling hearing loss affects people in many ways.
It impacts on a person’s ability to communicate, socialize, learn, work and enjoy life, contributing to poverty, social isolation, and feelings of loneliness. In older people, in particular, hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline, increasing the risk of depression and dementia. Unaddressed hearing loss costs countries an estimated US$ 750 billion annually in direct health costs and loss of productivity.”
The WHO Director stated that interventions can reduce hearing loss and its adverse impacts as half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented, adding that “in children, this figure is around 60 percent.”
Interventions including immunizing children against infectious diseases; screening and treating children who suffer from chronic ear infections; promoting safe childbirth to minimize 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.