GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report, “Childhood hearing loss: act now, here’s how“. The report coincides with the upcoming World Hearing Day on March 3, attempting to raise awareness that 32 million children worldwide live with disabling hearing loss and suggesting that 60% of that estimate (more than 19 million) could be prevented.
The report also outlines the importance of early hearing loss detection and intervention for young children.
Most Hearing Loss in Children is Preventable
A number of factors are responsible for hearing loss among children. According to the WHO, approximately 40% is due to genetic causes, 31% due to infections, 17% due to birth complications, and 4% due to expectant mothers taking ototoxic medications (those harmful to the auditory system).
With nearly 1/3 of hearing losses in children estimated to be due to childhood infections, the importance of proper immunizations is especially relevant, particularly for those children in the 3rd world where proper medical care is difficult to obtain.
“A child who struggles to hear may also struggle to learn to speak, underachieve at school and end up socially isolated. But, this doesn’t have to happen. We have a range of tools to help prevent, detect and treat childhood hearing loss.”
Additionally, tighter regulation and monitoring of noise levels and ototoxic medications, particularly in lesser developed countries, is an important step in helping prevent hearing loss.
Addressing Hearing Loss
Hearing screening programs for infants, which has become standard in much of the developed world, as well as for school age children, can help identify children in need of intervention by a hearing professional.
Within the WHO report are case studies from several countries, such as Cambodia, Canada, Thailand, Uganda, the UK, Vietnam and the US, highlighting the impact that programs and interventions are having on children with hearing loss across the world.
“In settings where public health interventions, such as immunization programs, are functioning optimally, much of childhood hearing loss is avoided. In others, early detection and treatment are key.”
About the WHO & World Hearing Day
The WHO collates data and information on hearing loss to demonstrate its prevalence, causes and impact as well as opportunities for prevention and management. It also assists countries in the development and implementation of strategies for hearing care and provides technical resources and guidance.
World Hearing Day is an annual advocacy event held on 3 March that aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world. The theme for World Hearing Day 2016 is preventing and mitigating childhood hearing loss.