Over 1.5b persons live with hearing problems globally, says WHO

Over 1.5b persons live with hearing problems globally, says WHO


World Health Organisation (WHO), has confirmed that over 1.5 billion people live with ear and hearing problems globally just as nearly 80 per cent of the number reside in low and middle-income countries.

WHO then hinted, an estimated 135 million people have the impairments in Africa, with the figure likely to rise to over 338 million by 2050.

Moreover, close to $30 billion is lost to collective failure to adequately address hearing loss on the continent.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who made the disclosure in a message to mark the 2023 World Hearing Day, yesterday, noted that the burden of ear and hearing problems reflects significant inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalised populations

She said even when over 60 per cent of common ear diseases and hearing loss could be detected and managed at the primary level of care, in most places, however, access to care continues to be limited to highly specialised centres and clinics.

Moeti observed that several people with hearing loss do not know how and where to find help or do not have access to needed services, thus greatly impacting on lives of patients, their families and communities.

She said: “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. It is important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services, who must seek specialised services, often in distant hospitals.”

The hearing problem scourge
The hearing problem scourge

The WHO official submitted that integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services was possible through training and capacity building to address the challenges.

“It is possible to ensure these services by training a non-specialist workforce that serves as first point of contact for 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,” she said.

Moeti continued: “We acknowledge recent efforts to address hearing care. The ongoing support to Kenya to establish a Centre of Excellence for 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.”