As one of the five senses, hearing plays an essential role in our lives. Beginning in childhood, hearing is critical to learning speech and language skills. In adulthood, communication is so important in our relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
As we celebrate World Hearing Day, we take time to reflect on the nearly 2.5 billion people around the world living with hearing loss and the nearly 700 million that require rehabilitation services including educational assistance, hearing aids, and cochlear implants.
Hearing loss can be prevented through health interventions such as immunizations, improved management of early ear disease, such as middle ear infections, and by turning down the volume when listening to audio or wearing hearing protection while working in a noisy environment.
One of the first steps is an effective screening and testing program to identify those with hearing loss. Once identified, medical or surgical intervention can address most ear diseases. For irreversible hearing loss, modern technology has provided a variety of tools to assist those with hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants together with the appropriate professional support and rehabilitation therapy can provide successful outcomes. The use of sign language and captioning, when appropriate, can also be an important tool in the rehabilitation process.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued their first World Report on Hearing today which can be accessed here. The report provides an in-depth look at hearing loss and the impact on society as a whole and provides possible solutions for the identification and rehabilitation efforts to help those in need of hearing assistance. Ear and hearing care is an essential component of universal health coverage and keeps our communities healthy and productive.