It is estimated that nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common cause of disability and the number of people with hearing loss will substantially increase in parallel with the aging population. Additional investment in these and other hearing care interventions is therefore needed.
At the same time, the economic benefits of globally investing in hearing care interventions are huge, a study finds. The benefits correspond to a return of nearly US$15 for every US$1 invested.
In an article in in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, an action plan with 3 specific actions is therefore suggested.
The action plan
The action plan contains 3 specific actions that could help address hearing loss and its consequences.
Firstly, most health systems do not have a coordinated strategy for ear and hearing care (in contrast to other common conditions like cancer and mental illness). Therefore, available services are often fragmented and siloed which complicates collaboration and communication among physicians and other hearing care professionals. A national strategy with input from consumers, families, clinicians, payers, governments and civil society groups could help to raise awareness, reduce stigma, enhance mechanisms for disease surveillance and strengthen existing public health initiatives.
Secondly, health systems should be better adapted to meet the needs of people with hearing loss. This will require work in partnership with patients and families to identify and correct situations for which additional accommodations are needed.
Thirdly, research funding on the causes, consequences and optimal treatment of hearing loss is not commensurate with the effect of poor hearing on quality of life and economic productivity. More funding is required for research on the needs and priorities of patients and families affected by hearing loss.
The COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is still a challenge for many hard of hearing. The article states that after more than 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic response, face masks remain ubiquitous in public places and are sometimes used in conjunction with plexiglass shields or other barriers to communication. In a survey of 641 people with hearing loss, the proportion reporting difficulty in understanding people wearing masks was 76% among those with moderate hearing loss and 95% among those with profound hearing loss, the authors write.
The article, “Focusing on the Needs of People With Hearing Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond”, was published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association.
The authors of the article are Marcello Tonelli, MD, SM, MSc, Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada and Ruth Warick, PhD, president of The International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH)
The article can be found here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/articlepdf/2789772/jama_tonelli_2…
Source: JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association.