Hearing loss is not a small problem that the world is facing. Though this problem does not sweep the world entirely off its feet, there are still many people with hearing problems. Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss in the better-hearing ears greater than 35 decibels (dB). Nearly 80% of people with hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries. It is found that there are so many possibilities of hearing loss increasing proportionally to age. Among the elderly over 60, more than 25% are affected by disabling hearing loss. So, please pick up the threads of reading to know more about the Incidence and prevalence of hearing loss in the people of this world.
Is hearing loss and being deaf the same?
These two terms are related to one another in terms of stating the auditory system of a human being. But they do not mean the same. People with normal hearing (binaural hearing threshold of 20 dB or more) are called hearing loss. Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe, or severe. It can affect one or both ears and make it difficult to hear conversational voices or loud sounds. People who have mild to severe hearing loss can be termed as people with hearing impairment. People with hearing impairments generally communicate through spoken language and can benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices, as well as captions. Most “deaf” people have severe hearing loss, that is, little or no hearing. They often use sign language to communicate. The loss of hearing might occur even when the child is born with the deficit, or it can turn out to be something that might be the impact of a disease or an accident.
Why should the problem be shown an immediate response?
In developing countries, children with hearing loss and deafness are often uneducated. The unemployment rate for adults with hearing loss is also much higher. Among employed persons, compared with the general labor force, the proportion of persons with hearing loss employed at a lower level is higher years of disability life (YDL) and disability-adjusted life years (DALY). The World Health Organization estimates that untreated hearing loss causes $980 billion in losses worldwide each year. This includes health sector costs, lost productivity, social costs, the cost of education support, etc. 57% of costs are attributable to low- and middle-income countries. It might also affect a person’s mentality. When they have hearing problems, there usually feel uneasy staying in a discussion involving a greater number of people. This will often lead to isolation, and thus, all these troubles of the mind can happen. The only step which can help in providing solutions for these troubles is by addressing the problem with the best medical care possible at an early stage.
What could be the prevention mechanisms?
There are a few steps that can be followed so that people can be prevented from hearing loss problems. By implementing public health strategies and clinical interventions throughout life, many causes of hearing loss can be avoided. Prevention of hearing loss is essential throughout life, from the prenatal and perinatal stages to old age. Among children, almost 60% of hearing loss is due to preventable causes, which can be prevented through the implementation of public health measures. Similarly, among adults, the most common causes of hearing loss, such as exposure to loud sounds and ototoxic medications, can be prevented. But these steps cannot find fruitful results unless and until it is a team effort if you have older adults or young children suffering from such a problem. Then they are in need of your immediate care and attention. Preventing situations not to occur is much better than finding solutions after they have occurred. Thus a few steps which can be followed as preventive mechanisms are:
• Develop your immune system. Unless you don’t have any genetic or born problem with your immune system, it can be grown and taken good care of.
• It is important to teach your children cleanliness practices that will protect them from unwanted germs and trouble.
• If you find that you have a genetic disease pattern that runs in your DNA, then it is important that you consult your doctor and check for the same.
• When you think that someone in your family or friend circle has troubled hearing, please do not be hesitant but visit a doctor. Early detections can be helpful in suppressing, maintaining, or even entirely protecting your loved one from the disease or loss.
• Workshops and awareness regarding occupational hazards and chemical hazards that can cause hearing loss or trouble have to be well-explained to the people working in a company. This will provide them with an idea about what they have to do and what not to do.
• People of society must be taught to deal with the best practices that can keep them away from being in trouble with regard to hearing loss. Thus, it is important to teach even kids at school about loud noises and their effects on the body.
• Drugs can also be the reason for hearing loss. Drugs just now mean just the alcohol and other kinds of drugs that are being used. But it also includes the medicines that are being taken. It is important to take care of the dosage of medicine. This will help in preventing any hearing loss.
Steps for management and identification of hearing loss
A few steps have to be taken with regard to the early identification of the problem and the steps that can provide responsive actions when found. Early recognition of hearing loss and ear diseases is the key to effective treatment. This requires systematic screening of hearing loss and related ear diseases in high-risk groups. This includes:
- Infants and newborn
- Preschool and school-age children
- People exposed to noise or chemicals at work
- People receiving ototoxic drugs
These are the few categories that can suffer from hearing loss or deafness. Thus, when they are properly screened for symptoms and signs, then it will become easy to suppress the problem with proper solutions that can be developed.
Hearing and hearing screening can be done in clinical and community settings. Tools such as the WHO “HearWHO” app and other technology-based solutions can detect ear diseases and hearing loss with limited training and resources. Once hearing loss is discovered, it must be resolved as quickly and appropriately as possible to mitigate any adverse effects.
A few Rehabilitation measures for patients with hearing loss are important to be analyzed, which will help in providing clarity in ideas about the measures. These measures include:
- Use of hearing technology, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and middle ear implants, which can amplify the sound for people who are unable to listen to the sounds around them properly.
- Use of sign language and other sensory alternatives, such as voice reading, use of palm prints or Tadoma, sign-language communication, and rehabilitation therapy to improve perception and develop communication skills and language. Thus, this sign language can be taught to people, which will help them to communicate with the others around them. This will also make them feel mentally equal and stable.
- The use of hearing aid technology, frequency modulation and loop systems, alarm equipment, telecommunications equipment, captioning services, and sign language interpretation services can further enhance the opportunities for people with hearing loss to obtain communication and education.
Works are done by World Health Organization.
WHO’s work in ear and hearing care is to promote Integrated people-centered Hearing and Hearing Care (IPCEHHC). WHO’s work is guided by the WHO World Report on Hearing (2021) and the World Health Assembly resolution on the prevention of deafness and hearing loss. WHO’s work includes:
- Guidance, assistance, and support to the Member States in raising awareness of EHC issues helping the spread of awareness in the minds of people.
- Promotion of data generation and dissemination of data and information related to hearing and hearing care which helps the world let know about the use of technology for the good.
- Provide technical resources and guidance to promote ears and their problems so that people will get familiar with the effects that can also be adverse at times.
- Support health personnel training in the ear and hearing health care. This proper training will help in saving many people from hearing loss.
- Promote safe hearing through the WHO Hearing Safety Initiative to reduce the risk of hearing loss caused by recreational noise so that the decibels are under control.
- Hearing Day is an annual publicity event to observe and promote and establish partnerships to develop robust hearing care plans, including initiatives to provide affordable hearing aids, cochlear implants, and services along with the Advocates for hearing and hearing care through the World Hearing Forum.
The bottom line
Thus, there are so many initiatives that are being taken when it comes to the hearing loss problem. All that people have to do is be cautious and conscious in the present. The world is very fast and running behind work. Where handling work stress has become an art. It is equally important to spend quality time with your loved ones and help them out if they are troubled by hearing loss.