Global Action on Hearing Loss: Advanced Initiatives by the World Health Organization (WHO)
Written by: Dr. Nimet Adam
Imagine a world where every 4th person is hearing impaired. This thought could become a reality based on statistics provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). Due to the increased prevalence of exposure to loud music, over a billion-young people are at risk for noise induced hearing loss. Add to this the fact that demographically, there is an increase in the number of older adults, one-third of whom are likely to have hearing loss. In addition, the on-going risks of infection, infectious diseases such as rubella and meningitis, birth complications, occupational noise exposure and the risk of ototoxic medications. All these factors have made hearing loss a public health issue that is getting a lot of attention.
Based on this information, WHO organized the first ever Stakeholders Consultation on July 2016. Organizations including manufacturers, NGO’s, civil society groups, academic institutions, and researchers in the field met to collaborate and brainstorm on how to build public awareness. World Hearing Day was created (March 3rd) as an annual advocacy event and was observed world-wide with the theme “Action for hearing loss: Make a sound investment”.
In 2017, the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body in global health proposed a resolution to draw attention towards hearing loss. The WHO has also organized another stakeholder conference at their headquarters in Geneva Switzerland. This conference is expected to focus on a roadmap for global action on hearing loss and to outline the roles of the various stakeholders in moving this agenda forward.
Most types of hearing loss cannot be cured. The focus needs to be on prevention and public education. We all need to do our part in our local communities to build public awareness. Using hearing protection when in noise is a simple and effective way to protect hearing. Reducing the volume on our headsets and being cognizant of how high we are setting the volume is an important step. Studies show that people raise the volume of their headsets by 20% when exercising due to ambient noise from movement and exercise equipment. Headsets that limit your output are available and an easy way to make sure you are not turning up the sound to levels that can be damaging. For more information or to get your hearing tested, contact your local Audiologist.