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WHO: Investments and demystification to improve hearing

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“Only one in five people actually have access to hearing rehabilitation among those who need it,” said Dr Shelly Chadha, head of WHO’s work on preventing deafness and hearing loss, speaking to journalists Friday in Geneva.

Ahead of World Hearing Daycelebrated on March 3, she recalled that the world health agency had repeatedly drawn attention to this problem which continued to worsen in recent years.

There are “several barriers” contributing to the problem, Dr. Chadha said, the biggest of which is the global shortage of hearing specialists. New WHO guidelines will certainly help to overcome these obstacles.

A world that hears less

According to recent data, by 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people are expected to suffer some degree of hearing loss, and at least 700 million will need hearing rehabilitation. In addition, more than 1 billion young adults at risk of permanent, preventable hearing loss caused by unsafe listening practices.

To address this problem, WHO is rethinking how hearing aid services are delivered, particularly in places where resources, including human resources, are limited.

The underlying principle of the new approach is sharing of tasks between highly qualified specialists and trained non-specialistsexplained a WHO expert.

“Some of the tasks that are traditionally the domain of highly educated and trained specialists, like audiologists, can actually be done by non-specialists with some training,” said Dr. Chadha, expressing hope that this will help to provide more hearing aid services to people. in low- and middle-income countries.

Invest in hearing

The WHO estimates that unresolved hearing problems lead to an annual budget loss of nearly $1,000 billion globally. However, less than $1.40 in additional investment per person per year is needed to expand hearing and hearing care services. Over a 10-year period, this promises a return of nearly $16 for every dollar invested.

However, the shortage of human resources and the absence of policies or insufficient funding are only part of the challenge.

Breaking myths and prejudices

Even in places where tests, hearing aids and rehabilitation are available free through the health system, people don’t always have access to these services, the study shows.

“As much as the challenges of the health system, as misperceptions and stigmatizing mentalities deeply rooted in society these are key factors that limit our efforts to prevent and treat hearing loss,” explained Dr. Chadha.

Myths that only older people suffer from hearing loss or the idea that hearing aids are always very expensive or ineffective not only cause harm to people whose lives could be much better otherwise, but also have a negative impact on the economy.

Every year, WHO uses World Hearing Day to raise awareness, break stereotypes and misconceptions, helping more people get help that improves their quality of life.

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