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International Day for Ear and Hearing 2012

A young girl being fitted with a hearing aid
© CBM/Jacq
Fatuma, with her mother, was part of a Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programme run by a CBM partner in Tanzania's Kilimanjaro region

3 March is International Ear & Hearing Care Day. This initiative - started in China - aims to raise global awareness to the fact that hearing loss is the most prevalent sensory disability worldwide, and is increasing.

Why 3rd March

The election of the date 3rd March is due to the shape of the numbers in 3.3, being representative of the two ears.

This date was proposed as the International ear and hearing care day at the 1st International Conference on Prevention & Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment, held in Beijing, China, in April 2007.  This day has been observed as ear and hearing care day in China and actively supported by partner organisations. It is proposed that WHO should consider endorsing this activity through press release and other media activities.

Rationale for observing this day

Hearing loss is the most prevalent sensory disability globally and is a problem which is increasing rapidly all over the world.  WHO estimates 278 million people living with deafness or disabling hearing impairment. This represents approximately 4.2 percent of the world’s population of which, two-thirds live in developing countries.

The causes leading to deafness and hearing loss are many, including hereditary factors, congenital infections, ageing, noise exposure, use of ototoxic medications and infectious diseases (Meningitis, Rubella, etc.). Chronic Middle Ear pathology, specifically Chronic Otitis Media (infections of the middle ear) is a cause of primary concern in middle and low income countries.

The prevalence of Chronic Otitis Media (COM) around the world ranges from 1 to 46% in developing and developed countries. Prevalence greater than 4% denotes a pressing public health problem, which requires urgent attention. Chronic otitis media is the leading cause for hearing loss amongst children.  This contributes to linguistic and educational difficulties in childhood as well as training and employment problems in adults.  Moreover, it can lead to life threatening complications and mortality. It was documented that in a single year (1990), about 28,000 deaths across the world were due to otitis media, mainly in developing countries.3  It has also been documented that the frequency of life threatening complications from COM was significantly reduced with the use of antibiotics such as Sulphonamides and Penicillin.

Treatment of Otitis media includes topical interventions, medication and surgery, as applicable in individual cases.  It is also important to note that otitis media can be prevented through a variety of public health measures integrated into the primary health care system of the countries. This approach has been advocated by the World Health assembly through its resolution WHA 48.9.

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