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WHO adopts resolution on prevention of hearing loss

who preventable hearing loss

On Tuesday, delegates at the World Health Assembly vowed to ‘intensify action to prevent deafness and hearing loss,’ by pushing governments to impose safety and accessibility measures. 

To reduce the prevalence of hearing loss from preventable causes, some specific measures must be put in place, they agreed. Especially in low- and middle-income countries. 

Training, prevention and affordable technology are among the WHO’s recommendations. 

Preventing some of the causes of hearing loss

Approximately 360 million people across the world live with disabling levels of hearing loss. An estimated 32 million of those are children and almost 180 million are older adults, according to WHO.

Vaccinations

“Nearly 90% of the people with hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries, which often lack resources and strategies to address hearing loss,” according to the WHO. However, if Member States ensure the highest possible coverage of vaccination against rubella, measles, mumps and meningitis, there could be a huge reduction in the number of cases hearing loss caused by these diseases.

Noise-induced hearing loss

The WHO resolution also acknowledges the significance of ‘work-related, noise-induced hearing loss. In addition to issues related to recreational and environmental noise-induced hearing loss’.  

The personal and social effects of hearing loss

The WHO noted that ear diseases and hearing loss have a significant impact on the development, ability to communicate, education, livelihood, social well-being and economic independence of individuals, as well as on communities and countries. Studies report unaddressed hearing loss is linked with cognitive decline and contributes to the burden of depression and dementia, especially in older adults.

Read more: Boost the brain through eyes and ears – especially in old age!

Unanimous resolution

The assembly’s new resolution calls on governments to integrate strategies for ear and hearing care within the framework of their primary health care systems; to establish training programs for health workers; implement prevention and screening programs for high-risk populations; and improve access to affordable, cost-effective, high-quality, assistive hearing technologies and products.

In addition to this, the resolution emphasized the importance of universal access to prevention and care, and called on the Secretariat to prepare a world report on hearing. The resolution also called for the provision of support to low- and middle-income countries to help them reduce hearing loss, including that caused by exposure to noise.

It is hoped that the resolution will provide new direction and impetus in the goal of reducing preventive hearing loss around the world. 

Angie Aspinall
Angie Aspinall
Phonak hEARo, Angie is a freelance journalist, copywriter, website designer and social media consultant. (www.aspinallink.co.uk) She lives in Scotland with her husband Richard, and their Westie, Tilly. Angie was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in her right ear at the age of 30. In 2011, she suffered sudden profound hearing loss in her left ear. She now uses a Phonak CROS II with a Phonak Audéo V hearing aid. You can follow Angie's international discussion group #HearingLossHour on Twitter @hearinglosshour.