Every year, the world hearing day is commemorated 2nd of March to raise attention towards various issues and conditions that lurk silently at the fringes of our society with the possibility of depriving many of the precious ability to hear well. According to the WHO, some 1.5 billion people have some degree of hearing loss. Of these individuals, a third of them require some form of rehabilitation services. These are staggering numbers, and the WHO projects that 2.5 billion individuals will be afflicted with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
We’re Staring Right Into It
Statistically speaking, people living in low and middle–income countries are at a greater risk of developing hearing loss. Kenya sits smack within that demographic and as such, sensitization on hearing challenges is of critical importance to improve awareness of the unique challenges that the hearing impaired grapple with daily.
The incidence of hearing impairment is on the rise largely due to preventable risk factors. Hearing loss is not a natural aging process and has been linked to several common, daily practices that, with a bit of care, can greatly mitigate the numbers that are currently projected. Most people in this country, clean their ears with earbuds. These seemingly innocuous devices that have made their way into our purses, our home medicine cabinets, are notorious carriers of microbes that can lead to an ear infection. Chronic ear infections afflict about 200 million individuals worldwide, a large proportion of which are children. Our children’s lives begin to be irrevocably altered because of our lack of knowledge.
Another common, yet preventable cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud sounds. Again this skews towards young people who commonly frequent clubs and concerts. 1 billion young people are placed at risk from this and the duration of exposure and the loudness of the noise is directly linked to the degree of hearing loss that you can experience. A quick fix to this can be through the use of earplugs that are regularly cleaned to protect against noise and preserve hearing for the long term.
What About COVID?
Covid-19 has brought about unique challenges to the hearing impaired. A large number of them are trained to read lips so that they can communicate with other people. The nationwide policy to wear masks and the worldwide advisory’s prompting the same have resulted in breakdowns of communication. Online meetings have helped to some degree to mitigate this as the participants can meet from the comfort of their homes and as such do not need to wear masks. However, this brings about unique challenges as body language constitutes a large part of our non-verbal communication and this is often not brought about on online meeting platforms.
The worldwide drive to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) is integrally linked to meeting the needs of the hearing impaired. Hearing aids are quite expensive and the vision of healthcare in the country – and the sustainable development goals (SDG) is to be able to provide healthcare to everyone, without the people incurring crippling costs to the individual.