One in four people to have hearing problem by 2050: WHO
KARACHI: There will be over 2.5 billion –one in four—people having hearing problems across the world by 2050, said a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), issued ahead of World Hearing Day on March 3.
According to WHO’s projections of people with some type of hearing loss by 2050, a maximum of 766 million will be living in the organization’s Western Pacific region, followed by Southeast Asia (666 million), Africa (337 mn), Americans (322 mn), European (236 mn) and Eastern Mediterranean (194 mn) regions.
In a relevant communication, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s inability to communicate, study, and earn living. “It can also impact on people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships.”
He maintained that the new report outlined the scale of the problem, but also offered solutions in the form of evidence-based interventions.
In most countries, as found by the WHO team, ear and hearing care is still not integrated into national health systems, and accessing care services is challenging for those with ear diseases and hearing loss. Moreover, “access to ear and hearing care is poorly measured and documented, and relevant indicators are lacking in the health information system”.
The WHO report said that 60% of hearing loss in youth could be prevented with early childhood immunizations, improvements in maternal and neonatal care as well as proper screening and management of otitis media. Other initiatives that can help reduce the burden of hearing loss include: incorporating “people-centered” ear and hearing care in universal health coverage; strengthening health systems to provide “integrated people-centered ear and hearing care” at all levels; overseeing and participating in awareness campaigns that discuss ear diseases and hearing loss attitudes and stigma; ascertaining goals towards hearing loss elimination, recording national trends and assessing progress in these goals; and encouraging high-quality public health research on the ear and hearing care.
According to WHO, many people with ear conditions and hearing loss struggle to access health care services. “Most glaring gap in health care access is the lack of qualified health care professionals.”
It reported that for each one million residents of low-income countries, 78% have fewer than one ear, nose, and throat specialist and 93% have fewer than one audiologist.
The report estimated that governments can expect a return of nearly 16 international dollars for every one dollar invested in efforts to reduce hearing loss.
“In adults, noise control, safe listening and surveillance of ototoxic medicines together with good ear hygiene can help maintain good hearing and reduce the potential for hearing loss.”
International experts considered the WHO report in question as the most up-to-date and highest quality evidence related to ear and hearing care in all settings concerned with hearing and hearing loss while stressing the need for raising awareness and promoting ear and hearing care.
They further said that hearing happens to be an important topic and should be a high priority among primary care physicians (PCPs) and those who are educating such physicians of the future. “The ramifications when PCPs do not screen for hearing loss are potentially huge. Untreated hearing loss is associated with a higher risk for dementia, depression, and a significantly greater risk for hospitalization among other adverse sequelae.
According to them, lack of adequate screening for hearing in older populations can also cause these patients to take prescriptions inappropriately, incorrectly follow postoperative procedures and treatment guidelines, lose jobs, and perhaps even medical benefits if they do not hear questions pertaining to maintaining these with correctly.
According to the report, recreational type of hearing loss is on the rise, while occupational hearing loss is on the decline.
WHO said that the World Report on Hearing (WRH) 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.
Based on the best available evidence, this report presents epidemiological and financial data on hearing loss; outlines available cost-effective solutions and sets the way forward through “integrated people-centered ear and hearing care”, the report concluded.