135 million Africans have hearing problems, says WHO

The World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has said an estimated 135 million people have ear and hearing problems in Africa

Moeti also said the numbers are rising, and at the current rate, it is likely that by 2050 there could be over 338 million people affected by ear and hearing issues in Africa.

She made this known in a press statement to commemorate the 2023 World Hearing Day.

World Hearing Day is celebrated every March 3 to raise awareness of deafness and hearing loss prevention and promote ear and hearing care worldwide. This year’s theme is “Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality.”

According to Moeti, the burden of ear and hearing problems reflects significant inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalised populations.

“Globally, over 1.5 billion people live with ear problems and hearing loss, nearly 80 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries. In Africa, an estimated 135 million people have ear and hearing problems. These numbers are rising. At the current rate, it is likely that by 2050 there could be over 338 million people affected by ear and hearing issues in Africa,” she said.

She acknowledged efforts made by countries to address hearing care by developing and implementing national strategies for ear health.

“Here are the most burning issues affecting patients: Many people with hearing loss do not know how and where to find help or do not have access to the needed services.

“This greatly impacts the lives of those affected, their families, and their communities. Moreover, the excessive burden of these conditions is also due to the limited number of ear, nose, and throat specialists and audiologists available in the countries. In the African Region, nearly $30 billion are lost due to the collective failure to address hearing loss adequately.

“Over 60 per cent of the common ear diseases and hearing loss can be detected and often managed at the primary level of care. However, in most places, access to ear and hearing care continues to be limited to highly specialised centres and clinics. It is important to address these conditions across the continuum of care for people needing these services who must seek specialized services, often in distant hospitals.”

The WHO Regional Director for Africa noted that integrating ear and hearing care into primary care services is possible through training and capacity building at this level to address the challenges.

“Therefore, I encourage governments to prioritize ear and hearing care health programmes as part of their noncommunicable diseases and universal healthcare agendas and increase their campaign, political and financial commitment. Increasing newborn hearing screening services as well as the effective accessibility of hearing aid technology, are critical starting points.

“To patients suffering from ear and hearing conditions and the public, I recommend that you learn more about these conditions and seek care when needed, including promoting hearing screening services.

“I urge all stakeholders to unite and act on the above recommendations, integrating ear and hearing care services into district health systems and primary health care,” she added.


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