International Ear Care Day
In a World Health Organization report published today, a survey of member states revealed that many nations are not able to adequately prevent and care for hearing loss. The report coincides with International Ear Care Day. The World Health Organization initiative is recognized annually on March 3rd.
The catalyst for this annual WHO initiative was the International Conference on Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment in Beijing. This seminal event was co-hosted by the China Rehabilitation Research Center for Deaf Children (CRRCDC), China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF), Beijing and the WHO. By the end of the conference the parties involved had come up with the ‘Beijing Declaration.’
A highlight of this declaration was a recommendation to establish “International Ear Care Day, for further promoting global actions on hearing care and minimizing [the] occurrence of hearing impairment. We seriously propose to recognize the day of 3 March as International Ear Care Day.” The declaration proposed that every year International Ear Care Day would have a specific theme and increase hearing care and hearing loss prevention awareness through a wide range of activities.
This year’s theme for International Ear Care Day is ‘Ear care can avoid hearing loss.’
Although the World Health Organization estimates that about 360 million people across the globe have “disabling hearing loss,” which represents over 5% of the world’s population, only 32 of 76 countries that responded to the WHO survey say they have developed plans and programs to tackle the prevention and control of hearing loss and ear diseases.
Major challenges for these nations include:
- Lack of trained health professionals
- Lack of educational facilities
- Lack of data and national plans to address the needs of those with ear and hearing problems
The highest incidence of hearing loss was found in Asia Pacific, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately half of these cases are preventable and treatable. The region with the biggest need for services was Sub-Saharan Africa.
The leading causes of hearing loss for young people living in low to middle income countries include:
- Untreated ear infections
- Vaccine preventable infectious diseases like meningitis, mumps, rubella and measles
The Director of the WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, Dr. Étienne Krug, says “the results of this survey are a clear call to action for governments and partners to invest in hearing care especially at [a] community and primary level.” He went on to say that any programs should provide access to everyone, including the disadvantaged.
The WHO states that good ear practices are important in the fight against hearing loss and include avoiding exposure to loud noise and inserting objects in your ears. As well, early diagnosis is considered key to providing the appropriate treatment. For instance, infant hearing screening programs could minimize any negative impact on a child’s development.
The World Health Organization hopes to see national programs that are specific to each nation’s needs and have them focus on increasing awareness on the stigma and misconceptions associated with hearing loss and hearing aids, in addition to prevention and service provision.