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Hearing impairment and hearing loss are a major problem worldwide that does not receive enough attention. This is the conclusion reached by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its “Report on Hearing”. According to the report, around 1.6 billion people worldwide currently suffer from hearing loss.


How Many People Have Hearing Loss

430 million people are affected by severe and limiting hearing loss. According to the WHO forecast, the number of people with hearing impairment is expected to rise to 2.5 billion by 2050, with 700 million of them requiring medical care. In its report, WHO addresses the global extent of hearing impairment, describes causal and preventive factors of hearing loss, identifies effective interventions, and health challenges, and solutions. In this blog post, we will present key findings from the report.



The hearing loss would be largely preventable

“Medical treatments and surgeries can fix most ear conditions and potentially make up for the hearing loss,” WHO writes. Hearing loss results from problems during childbirth or infectious diseases, among other causes. In children, Chadha says nearly 60 percent of cases could be prevented – for example, through vaccinations, early detection, and better care for mothers and newborns.


Vaccinations against rubella and meningitis, for example, as well as early detection and treatment of acute middle ear infections, could prevent many children from hearing damage, it said. For adults, noise protection and good ear hygiene are important to prevent the risk of hearing loss, it said. Some 1.1 billion young people are at risk of hearing loss because they listen to music too loudly too often, according to WHO data. More legislation is needed in this area.


Factors influencing hearing ability

There are numerous factors that influence a person’s hearing ability. These include, for example, genetic characteristics, biological factors, environmental influences, and behavioral factors that a person is exposed to in the course of his or her life. In general, a distinction can be made between negative influences (causative factors) that affect a person’s hearing and positive factors that protect hearing performance (protective factors).


Figure 2 illustrates a number of these negative and positive factors. The graph clearly illustrates the complexity and multi-faceted nature behind a person’s hearing. Causative, negative factors range from low birth weight, meningitis, and bad habits such as smoking, to age-related hearing loss. Protective factors include breastfeeding in infancy, a healthy lifestyle, and appropriate personal and ear hygiene.


Possible measures

Due to the high prevalence of hearing impairment and hearing loss around the world and the associated consequences, the World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of preventive measures and appropriate treatment for those affected. Technological solutions are already available today, are very effective, and also make sense from an economic point of view.


Medical technology provides innovative solutions at a very high level, for example with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Public health systems should make better and broader use of the possibilities, according to the WHO. Due to the Corona pandemic, public attention to health issues is currently particularly high and thus offers the opportunity to address issues such as hearing loss in the population and anchor them in people’s consciousness.




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