By 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people will be living with some degree of hearing loss, at least 700 million of whom will require rehabilitation services. This World Hearing Day – observed every year on March 3rd – CBM is encouraging everyone to check their own ears and take care of their hearing health long term. Diego Santana-Hernández, Senior Ear and Hearing Care Advisor at CBM explains why.
What is the global situation on hearing loss?
The first ever World Report on Hearing was published in 2021 after years of awareness raising, advocacy and collaboration between WHO member states and Civil Society Organisations across the world, including CBM.
Findings revealed that hearing loss currently affects more than 1.5 billion people or 20% of the global population; the majority of whom (1.16 billion) have mild hearing loss. However, a substantial portion experience moderate or higher levels of hearing loss which, if unaddressed, is likely to impact their daily activities and quality of life. Another 400 million live with hearing loss that ranges from moderate to severe; nearly 30 million have profound or complete hearing loss in both ears. By 2050, for every four people, one will have some degree of hearing loss, and 1 in 14 people will require hearing care.
Why does hearing matter to the work of CBM and globally?
People with hearing impairments struggle with many problems. These range from social exclusion to economic hardship to low educational opportunities. Many children with hearing loss do not have access to health, education and other basic services. As a result, they cannot attend school, gain skills, graduate and find work for self-sustenance.
At CBM, we know that health measures could prevent 60% of hearing loss in children in developing and emerging countries. That is why CBM promotes programmes where children and adults can access ear, nose and throat treatment.
In order to ensure effective services and systems, it is important to promote, advocate for and deliver appropriate training in ear and hearing care at local health systems levels. Where suitable, developing new cadres would also contribute towards sustainable development by promoting and facilitating task-shifting or task-sharing in already overburdened services.
People who already have a hearing impairment receive comprehensive care from CBM partners. A hearing aid, for example significantly improves the hearing of many people living with hearing loss. People whose hearing impairment cannot be improved are supported by CBM partners through education and vocational training.
In 2020 for example, 4,911 ear operations were performed in CBM-funded projects, more than 20,000 hearing tests were taken and over 2,600 hearing aids were distributed.
Through projects with inclusive community-based rehabilitation, 18,000 people with hearing impairments have been reached, with educational projects almost 6,000.
Ear and Hearing Care (EHC) is also one of the areas embedded into CBM’s Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) initiative and is part of our Plan and its four strategic priorities.
What is CBM’s contribution to ending preventable hearing loss?
CBM has been a Non-State Actor in official relations with WHO since 1989 and a founding member of the Word Hearing Forum, an initiative committed to “Making Ear and Hearing Care for all possible through Alliance, Advocacy and Action”. We work with a strong network of partners in implementing programs in partner countries and a targeted strong engagement with international alliances in technical fora and with relevant research institutions. For example, we influenced the implementation of the 2017 World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution on Prevention of Deafness & Hearing Loss (WHA70.13), the inclusion of EHC as part of the Universal Health Coverage initiative, as well as the design and content of the first World Report on Hearing (WRH), which was launched in 2021.
Why is it important that we all check our own ear and hearing health?
Hearing impairments can be prevented by practising simple health habits. Early detection of hearing loss and prompt appropriate interventions are crucial for effective rehabilitation.
Here are the simple, safe listening behaviours recommended by the World Health Organisation:
- Keep the volume down: Set your device’s volume level to no more than 60% of maximum. Use well fitted, and noise cancelling, headphones.
- Protect your ears from loud sounds: Wear earplugs in noisy places. Move away from sources of sound, such as loudspeakers.
- Limit time spent engaged in noisy activities: In a noisy place, take regular breaks in a quiet area. Limit daily use of personal audio devices.
- Monitor listening levels: Use apps to monitor your sound exposure. Choose devices with built-in safe listening features.
Make sure that you:
1. Heed the warning signs: Contact a doctor if you have:
- persistent ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- difficulties hearing high-pitched sounds or following conversations.
2. Get regular hearing checks
- Self-check your hearing using apps such as hearWHO.
- Seek professional advice if you fail the hearing check or have signs of hearing loss.
We encourage you to check your own hearing with the hearWHO App, which is freely available in English, Spanish and Mandarin. You can access it by following this link.
By taking the first steps towards improving your hearing habits and checking your hearing, you will be contributing to changing attitudes and making ear and hearing care more accessible and inclusive for all.