….As Continent Loses US$ 30bn To Audio Impairment
By Linda Ike
The World Health Organisation said over 1.5 billion people live with ear problems and hearing loss globally, which is nearly 80% living in low- and middle-income countries
The Organisatíon said that an estimated 135 million people have ear and hearing problems, disclosing that the numbers are rising as the current rate of affected people in Africa could be over 338 million by 2050.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in his message on Thursday to mark 2023 World hearing day which is celebrated on March 3 every year stated that It is an opportunity to raise awareness of deafness and hearing loss prevention and promote ear and hearing care worldwide.
He said that the theme of this year’s hearing day is “Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality.”
He added that It is a favourable day to reiterate the message on preventing and addressing common ear and hearing problems as nearly US$ 30 billion are lost due to the collective failure to address hearing loss adequately in the African Region.
According to the Regional Director, Over 60% of the common ear diseases and hearing loss can be detected and often managed at the primary level of care.
“The burden of ear and hearing problems reflects significant inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalized populations.
“We acknowledge recent efforts made to address hearing care. The ongoing support to Kenya to establish a Center of Excellence for Eye Health Clinic, Eye Health and Oral Health is a welcome step. Also, with our support, countries are developing and implementing national strategies for ear health.
“In 2022, Kenya, Malawi, and Guinea launched and started to implement national ear and hearing care strategies. Furthermore, there is now a regional analysis on ear and hearing care, including country profiles for all Member States. Furthermore, two modules on ear and hearing care management for primary health care workers were developed. They will be integrated into the WHO PEN packages.
“Here are the most burning issues affecting patients: Many people with hearing loss do not know how and where to find help or do not have access to the needed services. This greatly impacts on the lives of those affected, their families, and their communities. Moreover, the excessive burden of these conditions is also due to the limited number of ear, nose and throat specialists and audiologists available in the countries
“In most places, access to ear and hearing care continues to be limited to highly specialized centers and clinics. It is important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services who must seek specialized services, often in distant hospitals.
“Integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building at this level to address the challenges. It is possible to ensure these services by training a non-specialist workforce that serve as the first point of contact for the communities”. Moeti stated.
He disclosed that To facilitate such integration that the WHO launched a Primary ear and hearing care training manual that is intended to inform doctors, nurses, and other health workers, assuring that the manual will benefit people and help countries move towards the goal of universal health coverage.
He encouraged governments to prioritize ear and hearing care health programmes as part of their noncommunicable diseases and universal healthcare agendas and increase their campaign, political and financial commitment. Increasing newborn hearing screening services, stressing that effective accessibility of hearing aid technology, are critical starting points.
He urged patients and the general public suffering from ear and hearing conditions to learn more about the conditions and seek care when needed, including promoting hearing screening services.
Dr. Moeti further urged all stakeholders to unite and act on the recommendations, integrating ear and hearing care services into district health systems and primary health care.
Meanwhile, the World Report on Hearing has been developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution, adopted in 2017 as a means of providing guidance for Member States to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.