MELBOURNE, 2 March 2021: Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide ─ or 1 in 4 people ─ will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, warns the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first World Report on Hearing, released today. At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services unless action is taken.
“Our ability to hear is precious. Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, study and earn a living. It can also impact people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This new report outlines the scale of the problem, but also offers solutions in the form of evidence-based interventions that we encourage all countries to integrate into their health systems as part of their journey towards universal health coverage.”
The report launched ahead of World Hearing Day on 3 March, underlines the need to rapidly step up efforts to prevent and address hearing loss by investing and expanding access to ear and hearing care services. Investment in ear and hearing care has been shown to be cost-effective: WHO calculates that governments can expect a return of nearly US$ 16 for every US$ 1 invested.
The main findings of the report point to the lack of accurate information and stigmatizing attitudes to ear diseases and hearing loss, hearing loss not being integrated with national health systems, and lack of specialists in the area.
The main causes of hearing loss, the report reveals, hearing loss in children can be prevented by immunization for the prevention of rubella and meningitis, improved maternal and neonatal care, and screening for, and early management of, otitis media – inflammatory diseases of the middle ear. In adults, noise control, safe listening, and surveillance of ototoxic medicines together with good ear hygiene can help maintain good hearing and reduce the potential for hearing loss.
Hearing technology, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, when accompanied by appropriate support services and rehabilitative therapy are effective and cost-effective and can benefit children and adults alike, the report says.