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World Hearing Day 2018

© CBM
15 year old Natalia lives in Zambia. She has suffered hearing loss due to several recurring infections. Here she is being examined by CBM ENT surgeon, Dr. Fröschl. With hearing aids she now hears well.

The World Hearing Day (formerly known as International Ear Care Day) is celebrated annually on 3 March. The aim of this day is to raise awareness among the general public and policy makers about hearing loss and ear diseases.

Theme for World Hearing Day 2018 and our work around it

The theme for World Hearing Day this year is “hear the future“. CBM sees this theme under a double perspective: On the one hand, by considering the importance of improving the future of new generations. CBM contributes to this by focussing on early detection and prompt intervention of hearing loss during the life course; particularly, by working with our partners in the field towards the implementation of universal new-born hearing screening within existing National Health Services and Systems.

On the other hand, CBM also considers the worrying trend of the increasing number of persons with hearing disability living in the world. Many of the preventive measures can be achieved by improving the quality of maternal and child healthcare and through simple public health initiatives and interventions. To contribute to stop this trend for the future, CBM is actively training and equipping professionals at grass root level and advocating for universal health coverage, alongside international partners and alliances, particularly the World Health Organisation (WHO), civil society, professional agencies and organisations of persons with disability.

Watch Quincy's Story

©CBM
Quincy with her brother
The impact of hearing loss is felt directly in a child’s life. Speech skills, general communication and educational attainment are affected and as a result, this brings limitations for future life opportunities. That could have been the fate of Quincy. She lost her hearing after a severe infection.

CBM mitigated the impact of Quincy's hearing loss by raising awareness and sharing knowledge with family members and her community. CBM also helped by facilitating capacity building. Now Quincy is able to communicate, be active and contribute to her family life and community activities. Know more about Quincy’s whole new world here.

CBM key interventions in hearing care

1. Raising awareness and sharing knowledge

Strategies focus on:
  • Understanding disability rights and barriers experienced by children: in the community, within health and education systems and services, and within legal and economic frameworks
  • Explaining the importance of ear care which is affordable, accessible and sensitive
  • Promoting the early identification and management of hearing loss, and the provision of appropriate rehabilitation and habilitation services.

Prevention

The most cost-effective and cost-efficient interventions in Public Health are:
  • To give priority to primary prevention
  • Early identification
  • Prompt intervention
  • Rehabilitation and habilitation measures

3. Facilitating capacity building

With the right focus on capacity building, the development of sustainable services can be achieved such as:
  • Helping partner organisations fulfil their role as local service providers
  • Equipping professionals with adequate tools to deliver good quality services
  • Promoting the development and involvement of locally available human resources
  • Identifying the right people to receive and provide relevant training
  • Involving women, men, girls and boys who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind to lead and support capacity development and awareness of communities and professionals
  • Identifying or implementing strategies to promote the retention and development of the persons trained, including those involved through voluntary cooperation and work experience programmes, to address brain drain, particularly in rural service delivery.

4. Increasing availability and accessibility

CBM supports the development of affordable and accessible ear and hearing care for children, which is sensitive (disability, gender, age, religion, language and culture) and appropriate for the person, her/his family, community and peer group. Our accessibility and availability of ear health care services includes:
  • Local availability of suitable qualified personnel at Primary Health Care level.
  • Personnel equipped with the necessary instruments, materials and medications.
  • Services available for a minimal and affordable financial contribution from the user.
  • Accessibility which contemplates the following local aspects: geography, logistics, structure and communication.

A brief history of CBM’s work in ear and hearing care

In order to look to the future it is helpful first to look back to the past. CBM has collaborated with WHO in this area of work since the early 1980s, through its programme for prevention of deafness and hearing impairment (PDH), despite being small and underfunded. This reflected the situation in society generally. Few people saw the importance and costs of hearing loss both to the individual and to the whole population. Also, people with hearing disability have difficulty making their voices heard and it is only in the last two decades that the WHO has uncovered the huge size of the problem of hearing loss throughout the world and its concentration in poor countries. This led to the realisation that hearing loss has a huge associated economic cost. It became clear that something needed to be done about it. Few organizations took up this challenge. CBM was one of the few that did, recognising that the overwhelming majority of people with unaddressed hearing loss lived in developing countries.

In the absence of a significant number of CBM partners with projects for Ear and Hearing Care (EHC) which were well positioned to influence health policy at national level, a different approach was sought. CBM’s strategic planning, for the delivery of services and establishment of programmes for EHC, identified the essential need to effectively advocate before Governments and Ministries of Health in order to guarantee their commitment and responsibility for the implementation and sustainability of such programmes. For CBM’s efforts to have impact with Governments, a higher level of intervention was deemed necessary. CBM’s goal became to advocate about EHC before the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is represented by Ministries of Health of all WHO Member States in the world, sets the health agenda and raises awareness about major global health issues. The WHA does this by the ratification and promulgation of resolutions by all countries. There have so far been 3 resolutions on hearing loss. First one in 1985, then in 1995, after which CBM funded a full-time person responsible for the PDH programme, and also activities such as population-based surveys, production of Training Resource on Primary Ear and Hearing Care, and the Hearing Aids initiative. CBM is a Non-State actor in official relations with WHO since 1989. 

The most recent resolution occurred in 2017 and there is now a momentum to address the burden of hearing loss in a meaningful and effective way. This resolution clearly sets out the agenda for action, both by governments and by WHO itself. This is vital because rapidly increasing figures can only be addressed by public health methods. Hence the importance for CBM Federation to continue working through its 3 way approach, not only to support partners and end-users, but also to empower them and facilitate advocacy before their Governments, through country planning and delivery of practical support, but also with CBM technical advice and provision of guidance and tools, such as CBM Reference Guide for EHC. The future is beginning to look a little brighter for persons with hearing disability living in the poorest countries and communities, but there is still a massive need for more resources, more information and more trained people, in order to effectively move towards a more inclusive world. This can be achieved by “hearing” the lessons learnt from the past, by “hearing” partners in the present, and particularly by “hearing” the future.


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