'Disabling hearing loss' affecting 360 million globally, says WHO

Mar 07, 2013 in Hearing Aids

'Disabling hearing loss' affecting 360 million globally, says WHO

New estimates from the World Health Organisation suggest that over 360 million people globally (more than five per cent of the human population) suffer from hearing loss of a disabling nature.

The number was published prior to last weekend's International Ear Care Day, which took place March 3rd.

According to the organisation, a third of people over 65, some 165 million people globally, have hearing loss.

And despite the fact that age-related hearing loss is often something that can be helped through the use of hearing devices, not enough of these are being produced to meet demand globally.

As Dr Shelly Chadha from the World Health Organisation's Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness explained, hearing aids production is meeting under ten per cent of worldwide need at the moment.

When it comes to developing nations, less than one in 40 of those who need such devices actually have them, she said.

"WHO is exploring technology transfer as a way to promote access to hearing aids in developing countries," the expert added.

"About half of all cases of hearing loss are easily preventable while many can be treated through early diagnosis and suitable interventions such as surgically implanted hearing devices. Individuals with hearing loss can also benefit from sign language training and social support."

The World Health Organisation encourages nations to engage in the development of primary health care based programmes aimed at hearing loss prevention.

Some 32 million of the people facing hearing loss globally are under 15 years of age. Among this age group, the condition is most commonly caused by ear infection, particularly in nations with low to middle income.

Infectious illnesses like measles, rubella and mumps can result in the loss of hearing, but it's possible to prevent many of them via vaccination.

Hearing loss can also be caused through ear injury, exposure to a lot of noise and genetic predisposition, among other things.