Geneva, Switzerland – The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the hearing loss of millions of people could have been prevented or treated. The report will be released for International Ear Care Day on March 3, 2013.
“About half of all cases of hearing loss are easily preventable while many can be treated through early diagnosis and suitable interventions such as surgically implanted hearing devices. Individuals with hearing loss can also benefit from sign language training and social support,” says Dr Shelly Chadha of the WHO’s Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness.
One reason that hearing loss is not treated is that there are not enough assistive listening devices such as hearing aids to meet the needs of this growing population. “Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need,” says Chadha. “In developing countries, fewer than one out of 40 people who need a hearing aid have one. WHO is exploring technology transfer as a way to promote access to hearing aids in developing countries.”
Causes of hearing loss
- A leading cause of hearing loss is ear infections, particularly in low and middle income countries
- Infection diseases such as meningitis, rubella, mumps, and measles
- Exposure to excessive noise
- Injuries to the head or ears
- Genetic factors
- Problems during pregnancy or childbirth
- Certain medications
- More than 360 million people have hearing loss
- One in three people over the age of 65 years (165 million people worldwide) have hearing loss
- 32 million children under age 15 are affected by hearing loss
- The highest numbers of people with hearing loss are found in Asia Pacific, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa
WHO is encouraging countries to develop hearing loss prevention systems through their healthcare systems such as:
- Hearing screenings for infants
- Early assessment and treatment for hearing loss
- Vaccinating children against diseases that cause hearing loss
The report will be posted on the WHO website.