Hearing loss in the developing world

Class of deaf children in Africa - Sound Seeker

Hearing loss in the developing world

Being deaf or hearing-impaired can have a devastating effect on both children and adults. Learning at school becomes incredibly difficult, as does holding down a job. Without being able to hear, people often feel isolated, as communicating with family, friends and colleagues is so challenging. Here are some stats 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 deaf and hearing impaired people 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 can cause deafness.
  • 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 are no Malawian Audiologists in Malawi, Sierra Leone Audiologists in Sierra Leone or Gambian Audiologists in Gambia.
  • Hearing-impaired people who could function efficiently in the UK will find this much more difficult in developing countries because they don’t have access to audiology services and hearing aids.
  • Properly  fitted hearing aids can improve communication in at least 90% of people with hearing impairment but in developing countries, fewer than 1 in 40 people who need a hearing aid have one [WHO]
  • One quarter of cases of hearing impairment 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.
  • Hearing impairment is considered the most prevalent impairment  worldwide.
  • 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]