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Check Your Hearing – World Hearing Day
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Check Your Hearing – World Hearing Day

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Highlights:
  • World Hearing Day is observed every year on the 3rd of March
  • There are 466 million people across the world with disabling hearing loss according to WHO
  • The number could rise to 900 million by 2050 if no action is taken
  • Emphasis is on early identification and intervention for hearing loss, this World Hearing Day
  • This year, WHO has developed a mobile app called ‘hearWHO’ to help in hearing screening for adults

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been observing World Hearing Day every year on the 3rd of March, since 2007, aiming to prevent deafness and promote ear and hearing care. The day has been marked by a unique theme every year and the latest data available is presented through various mediums like banners and infographics. While the theme in 2018 was 'Hear the Future,' 2019 is the year for 'Check your Hearing!' The year 2018 also witnessed the launch of the 'Make Listening Safe' initiative to promote safe listening practices. An annual seminar would be arranged in the WHO Headquarters in Geneva akin to the one held in 2018.

Hearing Loss - Figures and Impacts

  • Over 460 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss of which around 34 million are children.
  • By 2050, this number is expected to rise to 900 million.
  • More than one billion young adults aged between 12 and 35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to higher recreational noise levels
  • Around one-third of people over 65 years of age are affected by disabling hearing loss

Unaddressed hearing loss has been annually costing $750 billion globally. It adds to health system costs by increasing the need for ear and hearing care services and resources. In addition to this, it also poses a threat in achieving the goal of education to all, in turn leading to low productivity due to unemployment.

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The impact of unaddressed hearing loss at the individual and family levels is also significant. Children may face difficulty in developing spoken language abilities, could have delayed language development and would require additional support in education. On the other hand, adults may struggle to secure employment and receive competent wages, in addition to facing emotional distress in everyday life and decline in cognition in the case of older people with hearing loss. 

Addressing Hearing Loss

The primary causes of hearing loss have been identified as inherited diseases, infections, continued exposure to loud noise, drugs and aging. Many of these causes leading to hearing loss could be prevented by approaches like immunization and restricted exposure to loud noise. Adopting strategies like immunization would help in effective prevention of hearing loss in children that occur as a result of infections like rubella, meningitis and mumps.

Assistive listening devices, cochlear implants and rehabilitation are options available for people who have developed hearing loss. Most importantly early identification along with timely interventions is crucial in addressing hearing loss and the WHO has made this the theme of World Hearing Day 2019.

Early Identification

WHO has prescribed recommendations to help adopt measures for early identification. These include newborn screening soon after birth and intervention in the form of therapy and assistive devices for those detected with hearing loss.
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Regular testing of children in schools, focussing on common ear conditions and hearing loss by adopting screening programs is also recommended. Frequent screening for at-risk populations exposed to high levels of noise at work or recreational settings and those who take drugs causing hearing loss. For older people aged above 60 years annual screening is recommended to identify age-related hearing loss and treating it.

hearWHO - The Mobile App

'hearWHO' is a software application that has been developed by the WHO to assist in screening for hearing in adults. The app, available for free download on both Android and iOS platforms, offers a test based on validated digits-in-noise technology.

The hearWHOapp allows a user to check their hearing status and also monitor it over time. It displays the results clearly and helps maintain a personalized track record of hearing status. Use of the app is highly recommended for those at a higher risk of hearing loss, in various settings and those who fail the screening should be prescribed medical attention.

Conclusion

Hearing loss is not always very apparent. Signs to watch out for include raised volume while conversing, missing parts of conversations, asking people to repeat and ringing sensation in the ears. Use of 'hearWHO' could be an initial step in screening to ensure better outcomes for individuals in various aspects like education and quality of life.

References :
  1. WHO - Deafness Prevention - (https://www.who.int/deafness/en/)


Source: Medindia

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