Infectious Disease

Nearly one in 4 individuals worldwide can have listening to loss by 2050

March 03, 2021

2 min read

Source / information

Source:
WHO. World report on hearing. Summary. Accessed February 25, 2021.

Disclosure:
Tedros does not report any relevant financial information. Healio Primary Care was unable to confirm Hood’s relevant financial statements at the time of publication.

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The WHO’s first world report on hearing estimates that by 2050 about one in four people – or about 2.5 billion – will suffer from hearing loss worldwide.

The report, released in conjunction with World Hearing Day on March 3, shows that most of WHO’s forecasts for 2050 people affected live in the agency’s Western Pacific region, followed by Southeast Asia, Africa, America, Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Reference: WHO. World report on hearing. Summary.

“Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, study and earn a living,” said the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said in a press release. “It can also affect people’s mental health and their ability to maintain relationships.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

According to the WHO, many people with ear problems and hearing loss have difficulty accessing health services. For these patients, according to the WHO, the lack of qualified health care professionals is the “most noticeable gap” in access to health care. The agency reported that 78% per 1 million population of low-income countries have less than an ear, nose and throat specialist and 93% less than an audiologist. Access to them is unequal even in countries with a high proportion of health professionals involved in ear and hearing care.

The WHO report also found that 60% of adolescent hearing loss could be prevented through early childhood vaccinations, improvements in maternal and newborn care, and adequate screening and management of otitis media. Other initiatives that can help reduce the burden of hearing loss include:

  • Inclusion of “personal” ear and hearing care in general health insurance;
  • Strengthening health systems to provide “integrated, people-centered ear and hearing care” at all levels;
  • Monitoring and participating in awareness-raising campaigns discussing ear diseases, attitudes towards hearing loss and stigma;
  • Identify goals for eliminating hearing loss, record national trends and assess progress towards these goals; and
  • Promote high quality public health research in the field of ear and hearing care.

The report estimates that governments can expect a return of nearly 16 international dollars for every dollar invested in efforts to reduce hearing loss.

Linda J. Hood

“The World Hearing Report is the result of WHO’s extensive collaboration with experts and stakeholders to develop the most up-to-date, high quality evidence related to ear and hearing care in all areas related to hearing and hearing loss. ” Linda J. Hood, PhD, A professor in the hearing and linguistics department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a WHO report officer told Healio Primary Care.

She added that on March 3 there are hundreds of activities around the world to “raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care.”

References:

Press release

WHO. World report on hearing. Complete report. Accessed February 25, 2021.

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Michael M. McKee, MD, MPH & Philip Zazove, MD

This WHO report comes out the same week as new data from the National Healthy Aging Survey, based here at the University of Michigan Institute of Health Policy and Innovation. 80% of Americans 50 and older say their GP hasn’t asked about their hearing in the past 2 years, and 77% haven’t had their hearing checked by a professional in the same time.

Hearing is an important issue and should be a high priority for PCPs and those training the PCPs of the future. The impact of not testing for hearing loss with PCPs is potentially enormous. Untreated hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of dementia, depression and a significantly higher risk of hospitalization, among other things. The lack of adequate hearing screening in older populations can also lead these patients to inappropriately consume prescriptions, improperly follow post-operative procedures and treatment guidelines, lose jobs, and possibly even experience medical benefits if they do not hear questions about maintaining these prescriptions correctly.

We know that many health professionals have limited time with their patients. However, studies conducted here at the University of Michigan have shown that only one question – “Do you think you have hearing loss?” – was included in electronic health records of patients 55 and older who referred to audiologists two health systems increased from 2.2% to 10.7%. Other data published elsewhere show hearing tests performed shortly after a child was born as part of the hearing aid screening and intervention program. When children enter school, they can identify many hearing impaired toddlers and put those children on the path for interventions. However, screening for hearing loss in other age groups is not recommended due to the lower yield unless the patient reports symptoms of hearing loss.

Michael M. McKee, MD, MPH & Philip Zazove, MD

Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School

Disclosure: Neither McKee nor Zazove report any relevant financial information.

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Oliver Adunka, MD)

Oliver Adunka, MD

One of the key messages from the WHO report on take-away PCPs is that hearing protection has been shown to be effective but only works when you use it. Another important message is that most of the hearing loss is preventable. It’s also worth noting that, according to the report, types of recreational hearing loss are increasing, while professional hearing loss is decreasing.

In many elderly patients, hearing loss is insidious and slowly develops over time. As a result, many of these patients do not notice that something is wrong with their hearing until they report difficulty understanding conversations in a crowded environment. Therefore, all patients aged 65 and over should have a baseline hearing test so that data are available for comparison when a patient raises concerns.

Oliver Adunka, MD

Professor of ENT at Ohio State University College of Medicine
Otolaryngologist, Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center

Disclosure: Adunka does not report any relevant financial information.

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