The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 360 million people in the world living with disabling hearing loss.
As people are living longer than they did in the past, the prevalence of hearing loss has also gone up.
Close to a third of people above the age of 65 live with hearing loss. Even though there are devices that can restore a person’s ability to hear, they are commonly in short supply.
According to Dr Shelly Chadha, of the WHO’s Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness: “Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need. In developing countries, fewer than one out of 40 people who need a hearing aid have one. WHO is exploring technology transfer to promote access to hearing aids in developing countries.”
There are also 32 million children under the age of 15 who are affected by hearing loss. Of the millions of people in the world who suffer from hearing loss, only a fraction obtains hearing aids, which help them overcome the difficulties. 16% of the Europeans with hearing loss have hearing aids and only 1% of Chinese do.
Researchers at The University of Southampton developed a new hearing screening test which could help the millions of people who suffer from the condition, helping to raise awareness and the availability of solutions.
One of the leading causes of hearing loss are infections of the ear, which are more common in low-to-middle income countries. The countries with the highest prevalence of disabling hearing loss are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Most of the infectious diseases that cause hearing loss can be prevented through vaccination, which make nearly half of all cases easily preventable.
Some of the infectious diseases that can lead to hearing loss include:
Other reasons for hearing loss include:
- Injuries to the ear
- Genetic causes
- Exposure to loud noises
- Pregnancy complications
According to the WHO:
“About half of all cases of hearing loss are easily preventable, while many can be treated through early diagnosis and suitable interventions, such as surgically implanted hearing devices. Individuals with hearing loss can also benefit from sign language training and social support.”
The organization strongly suggests that countries implement the necessary measures to ensure that all children are vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, and meningitis – which account for the majority of hearing loss cases.