28 Feb 2013, BioSpectrum Bureau , BioSpectrum
Singapore: The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched new global data on the prevalence of hearing loss, on the occasion of International Ear Care Day (celebrated on March 3). The new data suggests that more than 360 million people in the world have disabling hearing loss.
As the global population os ageing, more people are facing hearing loss than ever before. One-in-three individuals over the age of 65 years (which amounts to a total of 165 million people worldwide) suffer from hearing loss. Another 32 million are affected by hearing loss are children under age of 15.
Infections of the ear are the leading cause of the disability, especially in low and middle-income countries. Prevalence of disabling hearing loss is highest in South Asia, Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa. Although hearing loss from ageing can often be helped with hearing devices, there are not enough produced to meet the need.
Infectious diseases such as rubella, meningitis, measles, mumps can lead to hearing loss. Most of these diseases can be prevented through vaccination. Other common causes include exposure to excessive noise, injuries to the ear or head, ageing, genetic causes, problems during pregnancy and childbirth (such as cytomegalovirus infection or syphilis) and the use of medications that can damage hearing.
Dr Shelly Chadha, Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, WHO, said that, "Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10 percent of global need. 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."
"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," she added.
WHO encourages countries to develop programmes for preventing hearing loss within their primary health care systems including vaccinating children against measles, meningitis, mumps and rubella, screening and treating syphilis in pregnant women, and early assessment and management of hearing loss in babies.