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1 in 4 may suffer from hearing loss by 2050: WHO report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 02, 2021

According to the World Health Organization, one in four of the world's population could suffer from hearing problems by 2050.

Calling for extra investment in the prevention and treatment of ear diseases and infection, WHO said in its report, "Failure to act will be costly in terms of the health and well-being of those affected, and the financial losses arising from their exclusion from communication, education, and employment."

The first-of-its-kind global report on hearing revealed that the causes of many of the problems -- such as infections, diseases, birth defects, noise exposure, and lifestyle choices -- could be prevented.

The report further suggested a slew of measures, which it calculated would cost $1.33 per person per year.

The report also added that a trillion US dollars lost every year because the issue still remains unaddressed or addressed poorly in some cases. One in five people worldwide has hearing problems currently, it stated.

The report warned that "the number of people with hearing loss may increase more than 1.5-fold during the next three decades" to 2.5 billion people -- up from 1.6 billion in 2019. Of the 2.5 billion, 700 million would in 2050 have a serious enough condition to require some kind of treatment, it added -- up from 430 million in 2019.”

The report suggested that the unprecedented rise in hearing problems is due to demographic and population trends.

Access to treatment

The report also noted that the key factor of this trend is a lack of access to care. This is especially observed in low-income countries where there is a dearth of professionals.

Since nearly 80 per cent of people with hearing loss live in such countries, most are not getting the help they need. Even in richer countries with better facilities, access to care is often uneven, the report added.

And a lack of accurate information and the stigma surrounding ear disease and hearing loss also prevents people from getting the care they need.

It also recommended systematic screening to identify the problem at key points in people's lives.

Among children, hearing loss could be prevented in 60 per cent of cases.

"An estimated one trillion US dollars are lost each year due to our collective failure to adequately address hearing loss," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the report.

"While the financial burden is enormous, what cannot be quantified is the distress caused by the loss of communication, education and social interaction that accompanies unaddressed hearing loss," he added.

Published on March 02, 2021

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