Cochlear Limited , the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, welcomed the news that the World Health Assembly (WHA) has today supported a resolution that provides a hearing health policy action plan and recognises the benefits of prevention, intervention and treatment of hearing loss globally.
The World Health Assembly (WHA), governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), comprising of senior health leaders from 192 member nations, has reaffirmed that concrete steps must be taken in order to make progress in dealing with the rising prevalence of hearing loss. The resolution reinforces that hearing loss is a significant public health issue, requiring every government to make it a higher priority and develop a national action plan to address it.
The WHO estimates that over 360 million people — over 5 per cent of the world’s population — live with disabling hearing loss, 32 million of whom are children. With prevalence rates rising, the global cost of unaddressed hearing loss has recently been estimated at $750 billion per year.1 As per the 2011 census, India has more than 50 lakh citizens who suffer from some form of hearing loss. 3 out of 1000 Indians have moderate, severe or profound bilateral hearing loss.
The WHA resolution outlines practical, cost effective steps, starting with awareness, and hearing screening programs at key stages of life and making assistive hearing technologies, such cochlear implants, more accessible to those who need them.
Vandana Pisharody, Regional Director, South Asia at Cochlear, welcoming the leadership of government health policy leaders worldwide, said, “Today, hearing loss is a huge global public health issue. This resolution is a step towards providing a better future to individuals suffering from disabling hearing loss. At Cochlear, we believe that everyone deserves to enjoy the joy of hearing and continue to provide support to all the stakeholders involved in creating a better ecosystem for the hearing impaired. We believe that millions of hearing impaired in India will be uplifted when the resolution gets implemented.”
Brett Lee, Australian cricket icon and Cochlear’s Global Hearing Ambassador said, “The World Health Assembly’s support for a resolution that provides a hearing health policy action plan and recognises the benefits of prevention, intervention and treatment of hearing loss globally is a very important step. In India alone, over 27,000 children are born with hearing impairment every year. Without adequate programmes for early detection and intervention, many children go undiagnosed, which costs them up to 24 months of important cognitive development. I have been visiting India for the last few years and glad to see the rise in awareness around the country. Kerala as a state has been doing fabulous work and almost all newborn babies are screened for hearing. It is especially important that every state government makes it a higher priority and develops a national action plan, which will help significantly improve the situation.”
Dr. Milind V Kirtane, Padma Shri awardee and Senior ENT Surgeon at PD Hinduja Hospital, believes, “The World Health Assembly has taken an important step in addressing the public health issue of hearing loss and encouraging nations to develop national programmes. Early detection and early intervention, when backed by government support, could be the door for many children to lead an empowered life and ensure their integration into mainstream society. It is imperative that the global community continue putting pressure on nations to establish national hearing loss programmes.”
Many of the causes of hearing loss can be avoided through public health measures; it is estimated that 60 per cent of hearing loss in children can be prevented. This figure is higher (75 per cent) in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries (49 per cent).
At present, it is estimated that hearing aid production meets only 10 per cent of the global need.3 The benefits of cochlear implants are widely acknowledged for children2,4,5 and evidence shows that cochlear implantation for adults is an effective intervention for a much wider group of candidates than had previously been thought.6