WHO says over 1.5 billion people live with ear problems, hearing loss worldwide

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By Blessing Bature, Abuja

World Health Organization has on Thursday said globally, over 1.5 billion people live with ear problems and hearing loss, nearly 80% living in low- and middle-income countries that the burden of ear and hearing problems reflects significant inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalized populations.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti who made the disclosure to Mark World Hearing Day 2023 that 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.

Moeti stated that over 60% of the common ear diseases and hearing loss can be detected and often managed at the primary level of care. However, in most places, access to ear and hearing care continues to be limited to highly specialized centers and clinics. It is important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services who must seek specialized services, often in distant hospitals.

“Here are the most burning issues affecting patients: Many people with hearing loss do not know how and where to find help or do not have access to the needed services. This greatly impacts on the lives of those affected, their families, and their communities. 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. In the African Region, nearly US$ 30 billion are lost due to the collective failure to address hearing loss adequately”.

According to her, integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building at this level to address the challenges. It is 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.