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First World Report on Hearing: WHO

  • 04 Mar 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

The First World Report on Hearing was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) - a day ahead of World Hearing Day on 3rd March.

  • The Report underlines the need to rapidly step up efforts to prevent and address hearing loss by investing and expanding access to ear and hearing care services.

Key Points

  • Findings:
    • Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide ─ or 1 in 4 people ─ will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
    • At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services unless action is taken.
  • Issues:
    • Adverse Health Effects:
      • Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, to study and to earn a living. It can also impact people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships.
    • Lack of Specialists among Low-Income Countries:
      • About 78% have fewer than one Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist per million population.
      • 93% have fewer than one audiologist per million.
      • Only 17% have one or more speech therapists per million.
      • 50% have one or more teachers for the deaf per million.
  • Hearing Impairment in India:
    • About:
      • Over 27,000 children are born deaf every year in India. Hearing impairment or loss is often neglected as it cannot be seen and in most cases the diagnosis is delayed.
    • Causes:
      • There are many children who can benefit through advanced hearing technology but are missed out because of low awareness around hearing issues in babies.
      • One major reason is the unavailability of newborn screening programmes at birth and low awareness among parents.
    • Government Initiative:
      • National Programme for the Prevention & Control of Deafness (NPPCD) under National Health Mission aims:
        • To prevent the avoidable hearing loss on account of disease or injury.
        • Early identification, diagnosis and treatment of ear problems responsible for hearing loss and deafness.
        • To medically rehabilitate persons of all age groups, suffering with deafness.
        • To strengthen the existing inter-sectoral linkages for continuity of the rehabilitation programme, for persons with deafness.
        • To develop institutional capacity for ear care services by providing support for equipment and material and training personnel.
    • Required Interventions:
      • Holding screening programmes can help in early diagnosis, which in turn will lead to early treatment.
      • The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) helps in early detection of congenital hearing loss and this test is vital to detect hearing impairment in newborn babies and to ensure early intervention.
        • While UNHS screening is mandatory in developed countries, it is not included in the list of mandatory health screening procedures for newborns in India, except Kerala.
  • Suggested Strategies:
    • Integration of Hearing Care into Primary Healthcare: This will close the present patient-doctor gap.
    • Clinical Screening at Strategic Points in Life: To ensure early identification of any loss of hearing and ear diseases.
    • Promoting Hearing Assistive Technology and Services: It includes measures such as captioning and sign language interpretation which can further improve access to communication and education for those with hearing loss.
    • Increasing Investments: WHO calculates that governments can expect a return of nearly USD 16 for every USD 1 invested.
    • Increasing Immunisation: In children, almost 60% of hearing loss can be prevented through measures such as immunisation for prevention of rubella and meningitis, improved maternal and neonatal care, and screening for, and early management of, otitis media – inflammatory diseases of the middle ear.
    • Maintaining Hygiene: In adults, noise control, safe listening and surveillance of ototoxic (having a toxic effect on the ear) medicines together with good ear hygiene can help maintain good hearing and reduce the potential for hearing loss.

Source: IE

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