The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that an estimated 135 million people in Africa have ear and hearing problems.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti made the announcement in her message marking this year’s World Hearing Day.
World Hearing Day is commemorated
on March 3rd yearly to raise awareness of deafness and hearing loss prevention and promote ear and hearing care worldwide. The 2023 World Hearing Day is tagged, “Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality.”
Moeti stated that, the burden of ear and hearing problems reflected significant inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalized populations.
She said, “globally, over 1.5 billion people live with ear problems and hearing loss, nearly 80% living in low- and middle-income countries. In Africa, an estimated 135 million people have ear and hearing problems. These numbers are rising. At the current rate, it is likely that by 2050 there could be over 338 million people affected by ear and hearing issues in Africa”.
She lamented that, many people with hearing loss did not know how and where to find help or do not have access to the needed services.
This, she added greatly impact on the lives of those affected, their families, and their communities. Also, the excessive burden of these conditions was also due to the limited number of ear, nose and throat specialists and audiologists available in the countries.
The WHO Boss further disclosed that, in the African Region, nearly US$ 30 billion was lost due to the collective failure to address hearing loss adequately
Moeti also said, over 60% of the common ear diseases and hearing loss could be detected and often managed at the primary level of care. However, in most places, access to ear and hearing care continued to be limited to highly specialized centers and clinics.
She informed that it was important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services who must seek specialized services, often in distant hospitals.
Correspondingly, the health expert stated that integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services was possible through training and capacity building at this level to address the challenges.
She said it was possible to ensure these services by training a non-specialist workforce that serve as the first point of contact for the communities:
“To facilitate such integration, we have launched a ‘Primary ear and hearing care training manual’ that is intended to inform doctors, nurses, and other health workers. We have no doubt this manual will benefit people and help countries move towards the goal of universal health coverage.
“Therefore, I encourage 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 as well as the effective accessibility of hearing aid technology, are critical starting points.
“To patients suffering from ear and hearing conditions and the public, I recommend that you learn more about these conditions and seek care when needed, including promoting hearing screening services.
“I urge all stakeholders to unite and act on the above recommendations, integrating ear and hearing care services into district health systems and primary health care”, Moeti said.