Delhi–According to a recent report released by the World Health Organisation, 1 in 4 people or 2.5 billion people all over the world will suffer from some degree of hearing loss by 2050. The report also states that 700 million of these people will need better access to hearing care and other rehabilitation services if action is not taken on time. In India, the situation is equally concerning with 6.3 million people suffering from partial or complete deafness, and among these, 50 lakh are expected to be children. Sadly, hearing loss is the second most common and severe form of disability in the world. Early detection and consequent treatment are the keys to stop the progression of this disability right on its track and restore hearing in deaf people.
Hearing impairment or loss is a serious issue in India that remains grossly neglected. The country also suffers a huge economic loss resulting from higher unemployment, lost productivity and lower wages for those with hearing issues. Though the government has launched the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD) which is also being implemented at the primary healthcare level but lack of facilities and awareness are major deterrents in decreasing the burden of hearing impairment or deafness in the country.
Speaking of the same, Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director of ENTOD Pharmaceuticals said “There is an urgent need to step up efforts to address and prevent hearing loss by investing and increasing access to ear and hearing care services. More than 27,000 children are born deaf every year in India. Hearing loss or impairment is often neglected across the country as it cannot be seen and in the majority of cases, the diagnosis is delayed. Also, there is low awareness among parents which is why a screening program needs to be implemented to identify hearing loss in children. The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) is a mandatory requirement for developed countries however, in India, Kerala is the only state that includes it as a part of mandatory health screening procedures.”
The major reasons behind hearing loss and ear diseases in the country as listed by the WHO include ear wax (15.9%), non-infectious causes like aging and presbycusis (10.3%), middle ear infections like chronic suppurative otitis media (5.2%) and serous otitis media (3%). Some of the other causes include dry perforation of tympanic membrane (0.5%) and bilateral genetic and congenital deafness (0.2%). Nearly 50% of all cases of congenital hearing loss can be attributed to environmental factors like ototoxic medication exposure, congenital hyperbilirubinemia, neonatal hypoxia, viral infections, and meningitis. The rest of the 50 per cent of cases are thought to be inherited. With rising levels of noise pollution, ototoxic chemicals, ototoxic drugs, the incidence of old age deafness is also on the rise. Nearly 360 million people in the world have disabling hearing loss, out of which 91% are adults and 9% are children.
“In most cases, people fail to recognise that they’ve hearing issues. Hearing loss usually takes place over time. The symptoms may include asking people to repeat themselves, ringing in the ear, dizziness or balance issues, not responding to all sounds, not getting startled by loud noises, headaches, weakness and numbness. If any of these show up, it is always a good idea to consult an ENT specialist check for signs of infection or other issues that could lead to hearing loss” said Dr. Kisore Biswas ( DLO, MS ENT), Biswanath medical hall, Kolkata.
“Timely medical check-up, avoidance of loud music, daily exercises and keeping in check upper respiratory chest infections are some of the ways to prevent the early onset of hearing loss, especially in children and those below the age of 50 years. Other than that, hearing aids can also help improve the ability to understand speech among those with hearing impairment. Surgical interventions like cochlear implants, middle-ear implants, electro-acoustic stimulation implants and auditory brainstem implants are highly recommended for children whose development and future are at stake” added Mr Masurkar.