Hearing loss in the developing world

Class of deaf children in Africa - Sound Seeker

Hearing loss in the developing world

Undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss can cause a multitude of problems such as social isolation, depression and reduced vocational or educational opportunities. In the developing world, there are life-changing consequences for those with hearing loss where there is no real access to audiology health care or education services.

Here are some statistics and facts about hearing loss in the developing world:

  • Worldwide, over 360 million people are estimated to have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears.
  • 80% of people with hearing loss live in low and middle income countries. (WHO)
  • 50% of hearing loss cases are preventable. The main causes of deafness and hearing loss are infectious diseases such as meningitis, malaria and measles which are rife in developing countries.Medicine that saves lives (e.g. treatments for malaria and TB), poor ante natal and postnatal care and untreated ear infections can damage hearing.
  • 90% children with disabilities in developing countries do not go to school,  This means that as adults children with hearing loss are less likely to get jobs. [UNESCO]
  • Ailments like glue ear and ear infections could be cured with a simple prescription of antibiotics but for people living in developing countries who cannot afford this medication, they could cause hearing loss.
  • In  most developing countries there is a severe lack of hearing care education, training and resources. In the UK, high-quality hearing care is free and people can get expert help very quickly, but for people living in the world’s poorest communities, it’s a very different story.
  • There is only one Zambian Audiologist in Zambia covering a  population of approximately 14 million people. There were no Malawian Audiologists in Malawi until Sound Seekers sponsored the training of the first two Malawian Audiologists in 2016. There are still no Sierra Leone or Gambian Audiologists.
  • Properly fitted hearing aids can improve communication in at least 90% of people with hearing loss but in developing countries, fewer than 1 in 40 people who need a hearing aid have one [WHO]
  • One quarter of cases of hearing loss begin during childhood. [WHO]
  • Current production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need. [WHO]
  • A  child living in sub-Saharan Africa is twice as likely to be deaf as a child in the developed world.
  • The impact of hearing loss in developing countries may affect the development of speech and language skills in children; lead to slow progress in school; cause difficulties in obtaining, keeping and performing an occupation; produce social isolation and stigmatisation at all ages; cause poverty and place an economic burden on individuals and society. [CBM]