07 July 2003

Disastrous lack of hearing care

The state of the Russian ear care is shocking by world standards, according to sparse and incomplete available data as described in the English language newspaper, Moscow News.

Levels of awareness, testing and treatment of hearing problems are so low in Russia that diseases of the ear are left out of the Health Ministry list of "socially critical conditions", and Russians tend to be flippant when it comes to their ears, writes Moscow News. They are in no hurry to seek medical assistance unless the pain becomes unbearable, and they consistently damage their hearing by exposure to loud noise and by inadequate care.

The number of Russians seeking medical advice for their hearing problems was 4.9 million in 2002, and the number is growing by 100,000 per year. The total estimated number of deaf or hearing disabled Russians is 13 million. Many of them need not have become disabled.

But hearing concerns are of such low priority in Russia that no hearing screening of young children is even suggested until the age of six unless symptoms are obvious.

According to the World Health Organization, WHO, otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear) is the main cause of serious hearing impairments, especially in poorly developed countries and among the poorest sections of the population.

Russian medical statistics suggest that the prevalence of otitis media is three times higher than the levels at which WHO recommends national attention to the detection and treatment of the condition. And this does not take into account the additional undetected exudative otitis media cases. The majority of health centers in Russia lack the instruments that can easily identify these damaging infections.

Source: Moscow News, 7th of May, 2003

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