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May 05, 2014

Many countries lack programmes to prevent and treat hearing loss

Only 32 of the 76 countries participating in a worldwide survey have plans and programmes to prevent and control ear diseases and hearing loss, a study says.

Many countries lack programmes to prevent and treat hearing loss

Nearly 60% of the countries who responded to a survey from the World Health Organization (WHO) lack the capacity to care for and prevent hearing loss. The results of the survey are a clear call to action for governments, according to WHO.

Lack of plans

In a study of 76 countries and regions conducted by WHO, just 32 responded to having invested in a plan and programme to care for and prevent hearing loss. According to the study, many countries lack trained healthcare personnel, educational facilities and data as well as national plans to address the needs of people with ear and hearing problems.

The greatest gap between the need for and services to hard of hearing people was found to be in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The world’s hearing impaired

According to WHO’s own estimate, over 5% of the world’s population or almost 360 million people globally suffer from hearing loss. Although the most prominent group are adults, 32 million children worldwide suffer from hearing impairment. Surveys in several European countries and in the United States show that between 12-16% of the adult population in these countries have a hearing loss.

The distribution of people with hearing loss is unequal. Southern Asia is the most prominent area with 27% of the total number, closely followed by East Asia, where 22% of the hearing impaired live. Together with Sub-Saharan Africa, these three areas contain the most countries without a programme for helping people with hearing loss. 

Call to action

WHO pointed out that untreated ear infection and vaccine-preventable diseases such as meningitis, measles and mumps are leading causes of hearing loss. This means that by investing in vaccines or other treatments, some hearing loss can be prevented.

“The results of this survey are a clear call to action for governments and partners to invest in hearing care especially at community and primary level”, says Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability.

The study was published on the World Health Organization’s website.



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