Not enough hearing aids for those who need them

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The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 360 million people have disabling hearing loss worldwide and says production of hearing aids is not enough to keep up with the urgent demand.

The WHO marked International Ear Care Day March 3 by warning that the current production of hearing aids is meeting less than 10% of the global need. As the population ages globally, more people than ever before face hearing loss. One in every three people over the age of 65 – a total of 165 million people worldwide – lives with hearing loss, according to WHO.

Another 32 million people affected by hearing loss are children under the age of 15. Many of whom live in low- and middle-income countries – particularly in South Asia, Asia and the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – where untreated ear infections lead to hearing loss.

“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,” Shelly Chadha of the Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness.

WHO encourages countries to develop programs for preventing hearing loss within their primary health care systems, including vaccinating children against measles, meningitis, mumps and rubella; screening and treating syphilis in pregnant women; and early assessment and management of hearing loss in babies. According to the figures released prior to the International Day, fewer than one out of 40 people who need a hearing aid in developing countries have one. WHO said it is exploring technology transfer as a way to promote access to hearing aids in those places.

The agency also cited sign language training and social support as beneficial for people with disabling hearing loss.

Source: UN News Centre

R.S.