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World Health Organisation (WHO)

WHO:New Guidance on The Use of Hearing Aid

The WHO Director for the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases said that over 400 million people with hearing loss could benefit from using hearing devices.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new technical guidance on hearing aid service delivery approaches for low and middle-income settings.

WHO said this in a statement on Friday, ahead of the World Hearing Day on March 3.

It said the document was designed to provide practical

guidance to countries in developing hearing aid services in areas lacking human resources for assessing hearing and fitting and maintaining hearing aids.

“The guidance, developed with support from the ATScale Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, is based on the principle of task sharing among specialists and trained non-specialists.

“It includes two approaches, one targeting adults and the other

for children five years and over, and is accompanied by resources with tips for healthy ear care practices.

“It’s also about the use of hearing aids and how to support people living with hearing loss,’’ it said.

Also, Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for the Department for Noncommunicable Diseases said that over 400 million people with hearing loss could benefit from hearing devices.

Ms Mikkelsen said that, however, less than 20 per cent of these needs are fulfilled.

“Unaddressed hearing loss is a global public health challenge and incurs an estimated cost of over $1 trillion annually.

“Given the global shortage of ear and hearing care specialists, we have to rethink how we traditionally deliver services,’’ she said.

According to her, the release of the new guide coincides with World Hearing Day. The theme for 2024 is ‘Changing mindsets: Let’s make ear and hearing care a reality for all’.

Ms Mikkelsen said the first of two key challenges in ear and hearing care is the lack of health system capacity to provide integrated ear and hearing care throughout people’s lives.

According to her, the service delivery approaches detailed by WHO aim to overcome this challenge by better utilising non-specialists in providing hearing care to increase capacity.

“The second key challenge relates to misperceptions and stigmatising mindsets about hearing loss and ear diseases, which are deeply ingrained within societies and often limit the success of efforts to improve hearing care.

“Common misperceptions include the idea that hearing loss is an inevitable part of old age and that those hearing aids do not work well or are too expensive,’’ she said.

Shelly Chadha, technical lead for ear and hearing care at WHO, said common myths about hearing loss often prevent people from seeking the services they require, even where they are available.

According to her, the misperceptions are also prevalent among primary health care providers, who may consider this a “specialised’’ or “difficult to provide” service.

She said that to address common myths and misperceptions, WHO has released several information products and resources to raise public awareness.

“A fact sheet for health professionals provides a clear rationale and directions for the engagement of primary-level service providers in hearing care provision.

“Governments should take steps to integrate ear and hearing care within primary health care, implement community-based approaches that bring services close to people and lead initiatives to raise awareness and mitigate stigma related to hearing loss.

“Health care providers must also play their role by ensuring they

give due attention and care to people with common ear and hearing problems.

“Civil society groups, parents, teachers, and physicians can use

Furthermore, Ms Chadha said, WHO’s awareness materials and community resources to inform people about the importance of ear and hearing care.’’